“If you can afford to live here, then everything else becomes possible.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set an ambitious $41.4-billion goal of creating 200,000 affordable housing units within ten years. To start his second year in office, he outlined a three-point proposal that changes current zoning laws, allows for taller structures, and removes parking requirements for affordable and senior housing developments. The main beneficiaries of these changes would be the residents of new affordable units placed within a half-mile of mass transit stops, an area that covers most of the city. The proposal also allows current affordable senior housing developments to modify their parking situation and incorporate new uses for the land.
In the face of rising prices and a senior-aged population expected to increase 40% by 2040, affordable senior housing projects are an important focus of de Blasio’s attempt to help long-time residents stay in their neighborhoods. Current restrictions on building uses are being reconsidered, as the needs of aging residents change. A prime example is the prohibition on maintaining assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the same building, but de Blasio’s plan would change this, likely making mixed-use buildings more common. The added height allowances would also help create more interesting and functional buildings that reflect the brownstone developments of the past, not the boxy, low-ceilinged apartments that originate from a 1987 zoning law. While not changing the floor area ratio (FAR) requirements, the new proposals will enable developers to reach the maximum FAR possible, which can’t always occur under current regulations.
Minimum parking requirements also effectively restrict developments from being as dense as possible and can help contribute to the high price of real estate in a place like New York. Renowned UCLA professor Donald Shoup and his supporters (termed “Shoupistas”) strongly argue for the repeal of minimum parking requirements claiming they ultimately do more harm than good. The creation of infill development on small lots or the adaptive reuse of older buildings is hindered by the zoning requirements for parking spaces that simply can’t fit. He believes part of the problem comes from the fact that parking is often free and that public officials create excessive parking requirements, effectively encouraging reliance on automobiles. Removing these restrictions in a heavily transit-oriented environment that includes large swaths of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, makes sense and can provide valuable benefits.
A spokesman for the mayor is optimistic saying, “This will ultimately fix a lot of problems that have held back affordable housing and made it more costly to build.” If all goes according to plan, the public land-use review process will be completed by fall 2015, and these changes could add hundreds of additional units to the market, making a small but needed step toward denser developments in the supply of affordable and senior housing.
Guest Blogger--Daniel Newman
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Jorgensen, J. (2015, February 3). Bill de Blasio Pitches His Affordable Housing Plan in State of the City Address. Observer. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
Kusisto, L. (2015, February 20). New York City Pushes New Design Approach For Affordable Housing Units. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
New York City Planning. (2015, February 1). Housing New York: Housing New York: Zoning for Quality and Affordability. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zoning-qa/presentation_0215.pdf
Shoup, D. (2005). The high cost of free parking. Chicago: Planners Press, American Planning Association.
Yglesias, M. (2015, February 21). Bill DeBlasio has a new plan that could put a dent in NYC's housing crisis. Vox. Retrieved February 24, 2015.