NYC Zoning and Land Use Update: City of Yes for Housing Opportunity

By Daniel H. Braff and Christopher R. DeNicola

The Department of City Planning recently unveiled extensive zoning changes under its City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal. Despite substantial population growth over several decades, housing supply has not kept up with the demand. As a result, rents are out of reach for many, there is significant displacement pressure on residents, and segregation and gentrification exist in many neighborhoods. The goal of the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal is to produce more housing in every neighborhood of the city so that no individual neighborhood feels the brunt of these changes.

The changes proposed by City Planning are substantial. They touch on all forms of housing and all types of neighborhoods from large multi-family buildings in Williamsburg to single-family homes in Staten Island. Some changes are intended to directly unlock more housing, such as creating a citywide floor area bonus for the addition of affordable housing, permitting the conversion of pre-1990 non-residential buildings citywide, allowing multi-family housing in lower-density districts in commercial overlays, and permitting accessory dwelling units at single- and two-family homes. Other changes are intended to address and modernize many regulations of the Zoning Resolution that have stymied the creation of more housing, such as removing certain parking mandates, eliminating the controversial “sliver law,” removing or reducing dwelling unit factors, and simplifying many other bulk regulations such as street wall and dormer regulations for Quality Housing buildings.

City Planning has broken the changes down into four primary categories: Medium- and High-Density Proposals, Low-Density Proposals, Parking Proposals, and Other Zoning Changes. For a complete list of the proposed changes, we refer you to the Draft Scope filed as part of the application located in the following link:

Some aspects of the proposal will be more controversial than others. For example, although some other major cities have eliminated or reduced parking mandates, it remains unclear whether there is sufficient support for this change in New York City. Similarly, although several proposed changes directly encourage affordable housing (such as a citywide floor area bonus for affordable housing), it is possible that some other changes may be perceived as principally benefiting market rate and luxury housing developers (such as eliminating dwelling unit factors and the sliver law). This could present challenges to the approval of the proposal in its current form. City Planning has taken the position that whether the additional housing is market rate or affordable, any increase in supply will drive down prices. Finally, it must be noted that these changes alone likely won’t facilitate a substantial increase in housing supply until 421-a or a replacement tax incentive program is passed in Albany that will make the development of housing financially viable.

The City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal is still in the early stages and remains subject to change as it moves through the environmental and public review process. The City Planning Commission held a public scoping session on October 26, 2023, and is expected to begin the formal public review process in the Spring of 2024. We emphasize that this proposal may affect existing developments, future developments and developments in progress. Our firm will continue to monitor the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal as it proceeds through the public review process. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed changes, we encourage you to contact us.