New York’s ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ — Let’s Answer the Call

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As developers, we know all too well that restrictive zoning significantly contributes to New York City’s limited affordable housing inventory. The City Council has made progress toward modernizing land use policy and encouraging development by passing the first two parts of the Adams administration’s City of Yes (COY) initiative: COY for Carbon Neutrality and COY for Economic Opportunity. 

To ensure the success of this ambitious and much-needed effort, the council must now follow suit by passing the third plank of the mayor’s plan: the COY for Housing Opportunity.

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COY for Housing Opportunity is a chance to counter antiquated and restrictive zoning laws that currently serve as roadblocks to affordable housing production. Removing these obstacles requires a collaborative effort and is absolutely critical to addressing the mounting affordable housing crisis.

Milstein Headshot New York’s ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ — Let’s Answer the Call
Jolie Milstein. Photo: NYSAFAH

Every New York City neighborhood has a collective responsibility to expand the city’s housing supply. Yet, for far too long, lower-income communities have been home to a disproportionate number of affordable housing developments across the five boroughs. Developing mixed-income housing citywide is critical to achieving the kind of fair and equitable New York that all residents deserve. 

COY for Housing Opportunity will change this trajectory and bring long-overdue equity to the housing landscape. Calling on each community to increase its housing supply through much-needed zoning changes will ensure that New Yorkers have access to housing in every corner of the city — no matter their income level.

Capital funds are always at the core of building more affordable housing, but so are the laws, programs and policies that govern the use of those funds. To meet the housing needs of communities, we need the zoning updates offered by COY for Housing Opportunity. 

As a supply-side industry association, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing stands ready to do our part to solve the city’s housing crisis and stabilize our neighborhoods. We are calling on communities across the city to lead the way by supporting the adoption of COY for Housing Opportunity. 

Let’s say Yes to Housing by providing a density bonus in exchange for affordable housing, allowing conversions of underused offices to residential use, allowing accessory dwelling units, legalizing new housing above businesses on commercial streets, ending parking mandates, developing transit-oriented development, and making it easier for campuses to add new buildings. This is a historic opportunity for meaningful change.

We are ready to build the safe, quality and inclusive housing that our fellow New Yorkers so desperately need. We have the power to come together and accept responsibility for solving our housing supply crisis. COY for Housing Opportunity is a clear path forward with the potential to make a measurable difference. 

With your help, we can make New York City a model for “a little more housing in every neighborhood,” and we hope that you’ll partner with us to make that a reality. 

Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.