If we really want to build a more affordable and sustainable New York and keep our economy growing, we need to build more homes in every community for all New Yorkers.
We’re working hard to create more affordable housing and expand economic opportunity in all of New York’s diverse communities, and we know those policies will be different from borough to borough and neighborhood to neighborhood. But in some parts of the city, an arbitrary, outdated, Albany-imposed limitation on what types of homes we can build prevents us from achieving our goal of producing more homes.
In some of the most central, transit-accessible, and job- and service-rich locations in New York—precisely those areas where more housing makes the most sense—a mysterious state law known as the floor area ratio limit, or FAR, for its acronym in English, which limits the construction of apartment buildings to no more than 12 times the size of the lot on which they sit. There is no health or safety justification for the limit, and there are already more than 200 residential buildings in our city, with 32,000 apartments and tens of thousands of New Yorkers living in them today, that are over the limit. They were built before the cap was set in 1961, and when there were 3.4 million fewer people in this state and over a million fewer people in New York City.
Lifting the cap, which has been proposed as part of this year’s state budget, would do nothing on its own: Any proposed development would still have to go through New York City’s vigorous environmental review process and our equally demanding process. for public review.
The status quo is one in which this arbitrary cap is silencing the voices and judgment of New York City communities, Community Boards, Mayors, City Planning Commission, City Council, and Mayor . The FAR cap actually limits the city’s ability to do the right thing and build more housing, especially more apartments that are affordable.
Removing the cap simply gives New York City the ability to build housing where we decide it is needed, while leaving the cap in place allows some of the city’s most prosperous areas free to come up with solutions to address the housing crisis for a more inclusive New York. City.
Building new homes fairly is critical to addressing the staggering human costs of the New York housing shortage. Every home we can approve and see built plays a role in our collective efforts to lower rents, reduce gentrification pressures, protect tenants, and address homelessness.
Returning control of New York City’s zoning to our city would allow us to create permanent affordable housing in neighborhoods where there is now little chance of doing so. For example, in many areas of Manhattan, a developer can build 100% market rate housing because the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing affordability requirement does not apply. If the FAR cap were to be lifted, the City could make the decision to rezone these areas to allow for more housing and therefore require affordable housing on a permanent basis.
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With the cap in place, some of our city’s most in-demand neighborhoods are experiencing skyrocketing rents with little hope for new affordable housing that creates opportunities for New Yorkers, including for residents to remain in their neighborhoods.
Maintaining this arbitrary cap goes against all of our city’s fair housing goals. Resources and opportunities that are concentrated in neighborhoods, where the FAR cap limits new housing, should be available to all New Yorkers. We can no longer allow certain areas of our city to lift the drawbridge against a crucial citywide housing push to create a more just and prosperous city.
An “everyone pitches in” approach is at the heart of both Mayor Adams’s City of Yes and Council President Adrienne Adams’ Housing Agenda. The FAR cap is an obstacle for that to come true.
Fortunately, the Governor and both sides of City Hall are working together and united on the need for more available housing for all New Yorkers in all neighborhoods.
As the state budget progresses, lawmakers in Albany should be asking: does it make sense to keep an outdated restriction in New York City that undermines housing affordability, our climate goals, and racial and economic justice?
The answer is clear: we need to remove the FAR cap and allow New York City to develop more affordable, mixed-income housing in the most central areas of New York City, just like anywhere else.
Adams is the President of the Council and represents Southeast Queens. Garodnick is Chairman of the City Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning.