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New Report Explores How New York State Can Overcome Exclusionary Zoning

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press release

New Report Explores How New York State Can Overcome Exclusionary Zoning

March 11, 2021

NEW YORK, NY – New York City and State rely on a large force of service workers who typically utilize scarce rental housing, but the City and State have long failed to build enough housing to meet the needs of these workers. NYC has the tools it needs—citywide land-use planning and regulatory authority—yet a lack of political leadership and coalition building. The city’s suburban counties, on the other hand, delegate zoning and land-use regulation to dozens of local governments. These governments are often most concerned about local effects of new housing, such as the need for more infrastructure or services. No one authority is charged with acting in the countywide or regional interest to ensure that enough housing is provided to meet the needs of a growing workforce.  While private organizations like the Regional Plan Association offer advocacy, legislative solutions from the state level are needed to solve the problem. 

Fortunately, two pieces of legislation are currently under consideration in Albany that can address this failure—with some needed modifications as detailed in a new report by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Eric Kober. Kober, the former director of housing, economic and infrastructure planning at the New York City Department of City Planning, shows how using state powers to create more housing density in the seven counties (Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, and Orange) outside of NYC but within the NY Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (where a special payroll tax supports the MTA) can serve both workers who commute into the City and those who live and work locally and across the seven counties.  

Looking at the current proposed legislation to facilitate rezoning for housing and to create more Adjacent Dwelling Units (ADUs) across the state, and pointing to legislation passed in other states to reform exclusionary zoning practices, Kober’s proposals include:   

Broaden Governor Cuomo’s Rail Advantaged Housing Act to a Transit Advantaged Housing Act to: 

  • Require all communities and unincorporated areas to have a reasonably sized zoning district where multi-family housing is permitted as-of-right; and if the community has a commuter rail station, locate that district within a half-mile of the station. In other areas, new multi-family zoning districts should be located close to arterial roads and job concentrations, in many cases by utilizing commercial areas with large expanses of excess parking to build on if zoning restrictions were lifted.
  • Provide an expedited review process and a “local agency zoning mitigation account” to reduce costs for local governments when enacting zoning changes and to ensure that funds are available to cover added infrastructure and service costs. 
  • Implement a “builder’s remedy” that would provide an avenue of appeal for housing proposals denied permission at the local level. 

Remove from the proposed ADU legislation, conditions—such as rent caps and “good cause eviction” requirements—that deter the creation of new ADUs.

Until now, New York State has done little—if any—positive state reform to increase the supply of housing where there is demand. While high rents relative to workers’ incomes could be alleviated by increased new housing construction, the opposite is happening in New York’s suburbs. Eric Kober lays out ideas for statewide reform and shows how New York can follow the lead of other states that have paved the way for such reform.  

For more information or to speak with Eric Kober, contact Michele Jacob at mjacob@manhattan-instiute.org 

Click here to read the full report.

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