Mayor Eric Adams proposed zoning changes and other housing initiatives to tackle the city’s severe housing shortage and affordability crisis. He aims to produce an additional 100,000 homes over the next 15 years.
The proposal is the third of three citywide zoning changes that will be presented to all five borough presidents, all 59 community boards, and the New York City Council in spring 2024, said the Mayor’s office.
Adams maintains that in order to properly address the crisis housing must be built equitably in every neighborhood citywide.
“So many of the challenges we face as a city are rooted in an ongoing housing shortage that is forcing too many people to leave New York City and making life increasingly difficult for those who stay,” said Adams. “For more than 60 years, we have added layers upon layers of regulations, effectively outlawing the kinds of housing that our city has long relied on. Today, we are proposing the most pro-housing changes in the history of New York City’s modern zoning code—changes that will remove long-standing barriers to opportunity, finally end exclusionary zoning, cut red tape, and transform our city from the ground up.”
The proposal also includes measures to eliminate mandates that parking spaces be constructed with new homes, create additional affordable housing, construct low-rise buildings near transit, convert empty office buildings into homes, institute “shared living” spaces where residents share some common areas like kitchens and bathrooms, and legalize accessory dwelling units.
The city said that new housing production has slowed to a crawl—from an average of nearly 37,000 new homes approved every year in the 1960s to barely 8,000 annually in the 1990s and, most recently, approximately 20,000 homes approved each year in the 2010s.
Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) Executive Director Jay Martin noted that under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg there was a citywide “downzoning” that stunted housing production.
“It was [for] political reasons, I would chop it up to. There were certainly single family homeowners in some of the outer boroughs, I think Queens, Brooklyn, some parts of the Bronx, Staten Island—they just don’t want more housing,” said Martin. “There was a movement to protect those neighborhoods and protect [against] development and control the commercial corridors to try and force all of the development to Manhattan.”
For the most part, Adams does have support for his housing production vision. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said that she welcomes thoughtful proposals like the Mayor’s as a starting point.
“Housing and zoning policies have historically furthered economic and racial segregation, deepened inequities, and locked communities out of opportunities,” said Speaker Adams. “That’s why it is imperative that our city’s policies and zoning align to achieve housing growth through the lens of equity and access, accompanied by investments in economic opportunity, schools, transit, healthcare, and other institutions that help stabilize communities.”
There’s the obvious concern and fear about gentrification and overpriced rents in marginalized communities, but without new housing the current population ages, said Martin. He theorizes that if newcomers have new housing to move into, instead of encroaching on affordable and low-income neighborhoods, then rent spikes could be avoided. He added that phenomena like warehousing, when landlords intentionally keep their apartments vacant, is definitely a problem but not big enough to make a dent in the overall housing crisis.
“A plan is great but it has to be executed. Allowing zoning is just step one, there’s so many more steps and it will take years before we get to the place where things are actually being built,” Martin said about the downsides of the Mayor’s plan. He said that the long process is unfortunate because the crisis is urgent and happening now.
Grassroots housing advocates, like Taquana Raymond of the Upper Manhattan Tenants Union, said they find it hard to trust any initiatives from Mayor Adams.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.