Governance, Economics, Cities Housing, New York City
November 21st, 2023 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Report: Evaluating “Zoning for Housing Opportunity”

NEW YORK, NY – New York City’s housing crisis is worse than ever before, with a scarcity of available homes and rising rents and sales prices. In September, the Adams administration announced its “Zoning for Housing Opportunity” proposal, which aims to amend zoning to significantly boost housing construction in the city. But will the new measures go far enough? A new Manhattan Institute report from senior fellow Eric Kober, former director of housing, economic, and infrastructure planning for the Department of City Planning, evaluates the proposal and offers guidance and feedback.

According to Kober, the administration’s proposed changes have the potential to: 

  • create much-needed new housing in every one of the city’s 59 community districts. 
  • overturn effects of the city’s 1961 comprehensive rezoning, which greatly decreased the amount of housing allowed in the four boroughs outside Manhattan. 
  • prioritize the needs of renters and households at a broad range of income levels, rather than those of homeowners and other affluent residents, to which the city’s zoning has long been primarily responsive.

He deems the proposed changes, if implemented, as likely to succeed in increasing the housing stock. For example, eliminating off-street parking requirements will allow for housing growth in commercial districts where parking requirements make developments extremely expensive to build. Further, allowing accessory dwelling units and increased floor area while reducing minimum lot size will create growth in low-density neighborhoods. 

However, the report also finds areas for improvement: 

  • First, the city’s proposed citywide “voluntary” floor area incentive to develop mixed-income housing could be effective, if combined with state legislation that creates workable new property tax incentives. However, those voluntary incentives also need to be applied in lieu of far less effective “mandatory” affordable requirements the Adams administration has also endorsed.
  • Second, the proposal to build more housing in low-density neighborhoods needs to include provisions that preserve on-street parking spaces and actions to encourage households to own fewer cars. 

Mayor Adams has set a “moonshot” goal of building 500,000 new housing units in a decade. However, the process of securing approval for these zoning amendments is very time-consuming, lasting to late 2024, as it must undergo environmental review, and be approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council. More zoning changes will be needed, and with 2025 an election year, any subsequent phase likely won’t begin until the next four-year mayoral term. 

With that said, Kober concludes that the Adams administration is justified in framing these amendments as remedying past discrimination against New Yorkers of color. Such arguments may be effective in persuading the City Council to adopt the proposals.

Click here to read the full report.


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