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Eric Adams’s Housing Plan Has Some Good Ideas Without Much Urgency

And some links that will definitely fix the housing crisis, for your Friday.

9:33 AM EDT on September 22, 2023

A sign that reads "Sorry but the bench is private" above a green bench with "this bench is for tenants only" spraypainted on it.

(Hell Gate)

On Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a more fleshed out version of his "City of Yes" housing plan, which relies heavily on making changes to New York's city-wide zoning in order to spur more private housing development.

Over at Gothamist, David Brand has a good overview of what Adams's plan includes:

Adams' proposal hinges on a medley of rule changes and incentives, like rewards for developers who add more income-restricted units to their projects, new policies allowing single-family homeowners to erect a spare apartment in their backyard, and a measure eliminating parking requirements that force new apartment buildings to reserve pricey space for garages and lots. 


The package would also allow for taller residential buildings and tiny apartments near train stations and along commercial corridors. And it would lift a rule that prevents landlords from turning thousands of offices built before 1990 into condos and apartments.

First, the unequivocally good news: Getting rid of parking minimums for new buildings. They're an onerous requirement dating from the 1950s that housing advocates, and even a lot of developers, have long hated. Being forced to build parking drives up costs and takes space away that could house people to instead be used to house cars, in a city where most people do not own cars. Other cities have done this successfully (shout out to Buffalo, which eliminated parking minimums in 2017!). In a recent study, the Regional Plan Association found that "where parking minimums have been abolished, it has not only encouraged overall new housing production, but yielded a greater number of affordable units annually compared to geographies where parking minimums remained in place." The RPA added, "In other words, amending zoning codes toward the citywide abolition of minimum parking requirements can enable more robust housing production, both affordable and overall."

“This is what meeting the moment looks like. Ending mandatory parking mandates works for the entire city by knocking out an obsolete, antiquated barrier to housing affordability, home ownership, efficient mass transit, and economic development,” Sara Lind, the co-executive director of Open Plans, enthused to Streetsblog, calling it "nothing short of a historic step."

Then there's the somewhat hazy bits, especially the as-of-yet unformed details about the affordable housing component of the plan, which relies on allowing developers to build taller and bigger buildings if they use the extra space to build affordable housing. But what constitutes "affordable" in that rubric? The mayor's plan doesn't specify. Emma Whitford of City Limits spoke to Department of City Planning Chair Dan Garodnick, and "he hopes to push deeper than 80 percent of the Area Median Income, or $101,680 for a family of three."

"We're just starting that process now," he said. "We believe that we can and should do better than the current 80 percent AMI."

The devil will as always be in the details, and like all big zoning changes, what follows will be the City's oh-so-fun public review process, one in which every single community board and all five borough presidents give their input. 

With the mayor's announcement, some housing advocates were thrilled. "If passed, every neighborhood in our city will finally take part in solving our dire housing shortage," wrote Open New York's Annemarie Gray. 

But as Oksana Mironova and Sam Stein, housing analysts at the Community Service Society, told Hell Gate, the mayor has a lot more immediate problems to fix. "The announcement focuses on changes that will impact the housing market years down the line, but right now the administration continues to stymie efforts that will help New Yorkers struggling today, by underfunding the Right to Counsel program and blocking the expansion of rental assistance," the two told Hell Gate. "We urge the Adams administration to focus its efforts on addressing immediate and long-term solutions to the city’s housing crisis.”

And some links that will definitely fix the housing crisis:

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