Real Estate Bulletin: How Regulatory and Land Use Changes Can Expand Housing in NYC

By , Senior Advisor

While every administration grapples with a shortage and crisis of affordable housing in the city, Mayor Adams faces acute housing challenges that have been compounded by rising population, job growth, and the pandemic. The Mayor has articulated a clear mission to “create, preserve, and maintain safe, affordable housing that will build a more equitable City.” Mayor Adams has assembled a formidable team to meet these challenges, led by Jessica Katz as the City’s Chief Housing Officer, and Adolfo Carrion as Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development. Jessica Katz reiterated these priorities and noted the importance of expanding housing supply, ensuring families access to stable homes, and fixing NYCHA with “resident voices at the center of the conversation.”  Regulatory and land use changes will be one of the keys to meeting these challenges, and this leadership together with newly appointed Dan Garodnick and the Department of City Planning can shape a land use and regulatory strategy to expand housing supply and guide the city’s future growth and development.   


The 2020 Census counted 8.8 million New Yorkers, an increase of over 629,000 since 2010, a number that is almost as large as the entire city of Boston.  Housing development has lagged far behind this increase, driving up demand for existing and new housing, and contributing to homelessness, overcrowding, and pressures on existing residents.  With a population expected grow beyond 9 million by 2030, hundreds of thousands of new housing units will be needed to meet current shortfalls and future demand. The Department of City Planning’s analysis showed the per capita housing production in the region and New York City lagged major U.S. metro areas over the past decade.  New York City has been averaging about 20,000 new units per year, with only an additional 80,000 or so housing units in the pipeline.

Far more housing is needed.      

Land Use and Regulatory Changes

There have been some who have called for development of a comprehensive plan for the entire city as a predicate for moving forward on new neighborhood plans and both private and publicly sponsored zoning changes.  This approach would divert scarce resources and require years of process instead of taking concrete steps now to strengthen neighborhoods and build new housing.  While improvements to the public review process must be made to ensure meaningful community engagement, consider equity issues, and balance growth with preservation, it is important that the Administration not be bogged down by process and instead focus on specific land use and regulatory actions to preserve existing housing and promote new housing opportunities and investment. 

A few suggestions:

Use of publicly owned land, NYCHA property, and obsolete manufacturing land should also be part of any comprehensive strategy for affordable housing and economic growth. While zoning and regulatory changes alone will not solve the housing crisis, they will be a necessary ingredient in achieving the housing goals of the new Administration.  

Richard Barth

About the Author

Richard Barth

Richard is a Senior Advisor for Capalino’s real estate group. As the former Executive Director of the New York City Planning Department, Richard has more than 30 years of experience in land use planning, public policy, and community development.

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