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White House toolkit gives officials plenty of homework on housing shortage solutions

JOHN-BANKS-REBNY-WATCH-300x180It’s no secret that New York City is facing a housing crisis. This is becoming a national problem – so much so that the Obama Administration recently stepped in to highlight what is needed to “promote healthy, responsive, affordable, high-opportunity housing markets” throughout the United States.

The White House published its “Housing Development Toolkit” — a 23-page document that outlines the prevalence of local barriers to housing development and proposes a framework for local governments to modernize housing strategies.

An overarching theme throughout the report is a need to address land use processes and restrictions that make developing land much more costly.

Some of the local barriers that were cited relate to outdated zoning laws, lengthy and uncertain development approval processes, antiquated or arbitrary preservation regulations, and other laws specifically designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing.

Modernizing these local land use policies can boost housing construction and better leverage financial resources. A result of this would be increased connectivity between housing and transportation, amenities, and jobs. This is particularly important in high-growth metropolitan areas, which contribute most to the national economy.

Unfortunately, the number of barriers to housing development has made it difficult for many areas to modernize. These obstacles have led to a reduction in the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand.

Construction-Site residential

The Obama Administration is seeking a new approach. Allowing these barriers to accumulate, it warns, can result in significant costs to households, local economies, and the environment. These costs can also impact construction and related jobs, limit potential tax revenue gains, and exacerbate the affordable housing crisis in cities such as New York.

An inability to produce enough housing to keep up with local demand will ultimately result in the displacement of working families, who are unable to live in areas with the job markets that present the best opportunities for them, resulting in major impediments to stronger career tracks and higher-paying jobs.

Last but not least, the document references increased emissions as a consequence of failing to address the housing crisis. When Americans live farther away from where they work, it results in longer commute times, and more cars on the road for longer periods of time.

Thankfully, the Housing Development Toolkit is not all doom and gloom; it also highlights methods jurisdictions around the country can take, and have taken, to promote healthy, affordable, and high-opportunity housing markets.

These methods include streamlining permitting processes and timelines, eliminating off-street parking requirements, establishing density bonuses, enacting high-density and multifamily zoning, employing inclusionary zoning, utilizing property tax abatements, and promoting the development of vacant land.

Of course, as the world’s leading city, New York City currently employs some of these strategies in our efforts to address our own housing crisis.

However, the White House’s toolkit also contains measures which our city does not widely employ but have been successful in other places, such as the streamlining of the permitting process and enacting more multifamily zoning.

While it is true that some tactics that work in other cities may not translate well when applied to New York, we must explore as many avenues as possible in our search for solutions to the housing shortage we face today.

This new Housing Development Toolkit presents an informative, concise, and straightforward method for our officials to do so.

In other REBNY News:

Sustainability Boot Camp – sponsored by CodeGreen Solutions, Con Edison Solutions, National Grid, NORESCO, and Zones – will continue this Fall with BOMA’s International Energy Efficiency Program: BEEP® Version 2.0.

Taught by NORESCO, the eight-hour course will be offered at a discounted cost of $45 per person. Commercial building staff can register for courses online at

The energy efficiency and sustainability training pilot program led by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, in collaboration with REBNY, Building Owners and Managers Association of New York (BOMA NY), and Urban Green Council, complements citywide sustainability initiatives including Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC goal of 80 by 50, a blueprint to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.


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