The Real Estate Board of New York to The Department of City Planning on City of Yes for Housing Opportunity

Basha Gerhards

Senior Vice President of Planning

July 9, 2024

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY is pleased to testify in support of the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity (N240290ZRY).

REBNY supports the goals of Housing Opportunity and commends the Department for aligning the City’s zoning with the best practices around transit-oriented development, accessory dwelling units, and parking mandates. Additionally, the creation of the new R11 and R12 residential density districts is an important change that will help unlock new housing opportunities. REBNY also supports the expanded radius of potential receiving sites for landmarks’ development rights.

Among the most important components of this proposal are the provisions that will help support office to residential conversions. The proposed expansion of provisions of Article 1, Chapter 5 and other related regulatory changes are aligned with the recommendations of the Office Adaptive Reuse Taskforce and will help facilitate more office to residential conversions. These regulatory changes, in combination with the [RPTL 467-m] tax tool created as part of this year’s State Budget, will lead to the creation of thousands of affordable homes for New York City residents.

Another key feature of the proposal is the creation of the Universal Affordability Preference (UAP). This program has the potential to be well utilized in many neighborhoods to deliver apartments. However, the program’s potential is counteracted by the proposed elimination of the existing, Voluntary Inclusionary Housing (VIH) and Inclusionary Housing (IH) certificate program, as well as the reduction in maximum permitted density for market rate housing in the Special Lower Manhattan and Midtown Districts. The VIH and IH certificate program has been an important source of funding of affordable housing and has helped produce many affordable and market rate units, and any downzoning runs counter to the stated goals of the text amendment.

Finally, it is important to recognize that this proposal is one of the most significant changes to the zoning text in recent memory. If not phased in appropriately, the proposal has the potential to disrupt the existing housing pipeline in ways that will undermine its overall goal. The City Planning Commission should include carefully crafted vesting and transition provisions to protect against disruptions to the existing pipeline to ensure this proposal produces more, rather than less, housing. Our submitted testimony [please see Appendix] includes recommendations for consideration by this body to address these issues.

We appreciate the Department’s time and energy in continuing to work to refine this proposal through the public land use review process. To that end, we encourage additional refinement relating to bulk rules to ensure that additional density and the housing it facilitates can be accommodated, and that creative, good design can move forward. The reduction in parking mandates is an important change and we urge the Commission to treat equally conversions, new construction, and enlargements in determining the amount of parking permitted.

The changes embodied in this text amendment represent the next generation of zoning rules for the planning, design, and development of housing for New Yorkers. With changes by the City Planning Commission this proposal can ensure housing of all types and sizes are built. Thank you for your consideration of these points.