AIA Comes Out in Favor of New Zoning Plan in NYC

How the plan could increase affordable housing in the city.

New York—The chapters of the American Institute of Architects collectively have come out in favor of a proposal by the de Blasio administration to allow for taller residential structures in parts of the city, which would effectively increase the density of those neighborhoods. The overall goal of the mayor’s plan, however, is to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

The organization noted, “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.”

The AIA also asserted that the proposed changes will “advance the goals of generating more affordable housing and encouraging the use of mass transit. The proposed zoning text amendments can improve the city’s built environment and streetscape for all New Yorkers.”

The main features of the policy, according to the Department of City Planning, would be that affordable housing inclusion would be mandatory, not voluntary, in developments in certain parts of the city. Production of affordable housing would be a condition of residential development when developers build in an area zoned for “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing,” as the city calls it, whether rezoned as part of a city neighborhood plan or a private rezoning application.

To avoid the problems associated with Section 8 expiration, the affordable housing requirement would be permanent. Developers would have a number of options for including various percentages of units for people meeting certain percentages of area median incomes, using a set of formulas proposed by the city. The practice of including one entrance for people living in affordable units and another one for people in market-rate units would be banned.

The requirement would first be applied to East New York in Brooklyn, which is one of 15 areas in which the city wants taller buildings and more density. The mayor’s overall goal is to add 80,000 new affordable units to the city by 2024.

AIA is one of the first local real estate-related organizations to make a statement on the plan. John Banks, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said: “We will review the details of the mandatory inclusionary program to assess whether or not it will result in new affordable housing production.”