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Real Estate Board of New York Testimony before the New York City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises Zoning for Quality and Affordability Text Amendment
February 10, 2016
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is a trade association with over 17,000 owners, brokers, managers, lenders and other real estate professionals active in New York.
REBNY strongly supports the Mayor’s Five Borough, Ten Year Housing Plan to preserve and create more than 200,000 units of affordable housing. More specifically we support the Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) Text Amendment that we believe is a critical component of that plan.
ZQA provides a number of changes that would improve the quality of housing and increase the quantity of affordable housing.
Our Zoning Committee — comprised of architects, planners, land use attorneys, and builders — welcomed the changes that encouraged better ground floor retail, residential units with adequate ceiling heights, façade articulation, and courtyards. ZQA also seeks to clarify ambiguities and correct contradictions in the zoning text.
The added height allowances in medium and high density zoning districts is a prudent way to encourage the creation of on-site affordable housing. This will provide flexibility to use on-site the additional floor area generated by inclusionary housing without compromising the quality of the apartments within the building.
Additionally, we strongly support the provisions that would eliminate parking requirements for income-restricted housing in areas well-served by mass transit. This change has very limited applicability but will significantly reduce the cost of affordable housing construction.
Numerous provisions in the text change will allow for more architecturally interesting buildings and will improve the efficiency of building designs with a very low impact on neighborhood character, such as the:
- Reduction of mandatory retail depth from 50’ to 30’;
- Reduction of DU’s per floor area at proposed 680 SF;
- Reduction in the minimum distance between buildings;
- Elimination of rear yard setbacks;
- Allowance for small outer and inner courts;
- Allowance for 100% lot coverage of corner lots;
- Allowance for accessory residential use in rear yards;
- Revised terrace enclosure allowance of up to 67% (from 50%) before it is counted as floor area;
- Clarification of rear yard’s reduction for shallow interior lots/through lots;
- Revision to measure setbacks from street line instead of from street wall;
- Exemption of Sliver Law for Quality Housing building with affordable housing;
- Relaxation of maximum height of “transition zone” between lower and higher density zones; and
- New definitions of long term care, the slope in the definition of base plane and AIRs.
Our housing and affordable housing problem is in part a result of too restrictive land use regulations, including absolute height limits and use and bulk regulations which are outdated or fails to take full advantage of the nearby transit. We commend the administration’s effort in ZQA to have the City’s land use policy address our most urgent housing needs.