Monday, February 23, 2015
DeBlasio believes key to affordable housing is bigger buildings
The city released a sweeping proposal Friday that would dramatically alter the way buildings look in New York City, possibly ushering in a new generation of buildings that look more like the varied structures of yore while making it easier and cheaper to create affordable housing units. The changes will allow developers to build several stories taller than current norms in some cases, as long as the overall square footage is held steady. In others, the new rules would give developers more flexibility with the shape of a property's façade, all while maintaining existing square-footage limits.
The proposal, which must go through the labyrinthine public review process, is one of the biggest shifts to zoning laws that govern the shape of buildings since 1987, when the code was last updated. The guiding idea is to give developers more flexibility on what their building will look like and what they can put in it, rather than literally forcing them into a box.
The problem that the city is hoping to resolve is that as construction methods have changed, zoning regulations have not kept pace. And it has become more difficult for architects and developers to squeeze all of the residential square footage they are allowed into a building’s shape, which is strictly governed by these laws. As a result, architects have been forced to shrink ceiling heights or excise entire floors from the designs. In many cases, developers end up building monolithic boxes to ensure everything fits.
And in situations where developers are given the option to build bigger if affordable apartments are included, the height restrictions have been too short to fit everything into the building, and have caused many to turn down the deal and build only market-rate.
The added height in many neighborhoods is sure to rankle anti-development groups across the city. In mid- to high-density areas, the additional allowance will usher in a generation of buildings up to 15 feet taller than previous limits.
What's more, in cases where developers are allowed to build bigger buildings in return for providing affordable or senior housing, the allowances could lead to as much as four stories of extra height in high-density neighborhoods.