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Weisbrod touts zoning plan as nationʼs most ambitious

Public review got underway Monday for two proposed changes to New York City’s Zoning Resolution designed to promote production of more affordable housing in better quality buildings, and foster more inclusive, livable and diverse neighborhoods.

The proposals, developed by the Department of City Planning (DCP), will work together with other initiatives to achieve key goals of Housing New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ten year plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
“Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) is designed to be predictable, feasible and permanent,” said City Planning Commission chairman Carl Weisbrod, in a statement.

CARL WEISBROD
CARL WEISBROD

“It would foster economic diversity in neighborhoods. Most important to residents is that it will assure that the affordable housing units are affordable forever and protected, regardless of what happens to neighborhoods over time, enabling us to create and sustain a long-term stable reservoir of affordable housing for our communities.”

The MIH program would require (through zoning) that when City Planning Commission actions create significant new housing capacity in medium and high-density areas, either 25 or 30 percent of new housing would be permanently affordable.

MIH is intended to promote economic diversity in neighborhoods where the City plans for growth by ensuring that new housing meets the needs of a wider range of New Yorkers. It is the most ambitious such program of any major U.S. city.

Production of affordable housing would be a condition of residential development when developers build in an area zoned for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, whether rezoned as part of a City neighborhood plan or a private rezoning application. As “enabling legislation,” the proposed text amendment would establish a framework that would then be applied as neighborhoods are rezoned throughout the City.

The program would be applied to DCP’s neighborhood rezonings where housing capacity significantly increases, beginning with East New York, which also entered public review today. It would also apply to individual applications, private or public, to the City Planning Commission where a significant amount of new housing capacity is created. Each would go through its own land use review process.

As part of Housing New York, MIH would work together with City housing subsidies, other zoning changes and 421a reforms achieved in the last legislative session in Albany, and would facilitate affordable housing in a variety of market conditions. MIH was developed in close consultation with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and informed by extensive policy and financial feasibility analysis.

DAVID KARNOVSKY
DAVID KARNOVSKY

David Karnovsky a partner in Fried Frank’s Real Estate Department praised the proposal’s flexibility.

“The proposal has a lot of features which are designed to address particular issues and concerns,” said Karnovsky. “For example it has a provision which allows a small development of 25-units or less to make a payment towards an affordable housing property rather than provide the affordable housing itself.”

“In a variety of ways it addresses situations that can come up and are likely to come up inevitably when you have a proposal like this that is intended to apply city wide,” he continued. Karnovsky said that the “a lot of scrutiny” is in the proposal’s future, from both developers and neighborhood groups.

“Ultimately the feasibility of the program in any given location in any neighborhood is going to depend upon not just the location in the zoning but also the mix of subsidy and financial support that is available to affordable housing,” he said. Karnovsky said he is interested to see how issues like private rezoning will fit into the policy’s application.
Ultimately, he is optimistic about the “carefully constructed, comprehensive” proposal’s future.

Rendering of what Pitkin Avenue in East New York might look like after a planned rezoning.
Rendering of what Pitkin Avenue in East New York might look like after a planned rezoning.

 

Also part of the city’s plan is to increase building height limits in certain areas. This maneuver was enthusiastically supported by the AIA.

“The five New York City chapters of the American Institute of Architects have reviewed the Department of City Planning’s new recommendations for revisions to zoning regulations in residential districts and strongly agree that a minimal increase in building height limits will provide greater flexibility in design and open additional sites to private development, while improving the quality of buildings in every neighborhood,” said the AIA.

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