Civic News

Planning org: If the rent is too high, repeal housing caps

A new report from the Regional Plan Association says that if we want lower rents, we must allow for more building.

The view from above Brooklyn's New Lab.

(Photo via Vimeo)

There are some parts of the city that are actually underdeveloped, says the Regional Plan Association: much of Manhattan, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn.

Building higher to allow more people to live there has to be the way to make a dent in the prohibitively expensive rent it costs to live in these places, argues the organization in a new report, “Creating more affordable housing in New York City’s high-rise areas.”

It’s no surprise that increased supply would lead to a lower price, but as of now, that’s simply against the rules. According to a piece of legislation from 1961, an amendment to the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law, Class A residential buildings can not be larger than 12 times the square feet of the lot they’re built on. The RPA says this piece of legislation is a solution to a problem that no longer exists.

“This law was enacted under the rubric of discouraging large vertical slums that would be health hazards and overwhelm the urban infrastructure,” the org writes in a February 2018 housing report. “Since 1961, however, urban health has improved tremendously, and overcrowding in dense areas has decreased significantly.”

The problem facing renters today is not vertical slums so much as it is steep prices, the RPA argues.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Real Estate Board of New York are both on board with the suggestion to repeal the amendment, but it looks like it will run into some problems in Albany. According to Crain’sSenate Majority Leader John Flanagan is “unenthusiastic” about the idea, siding with community groups that oppose the continued development and reduction in air and light that come with it.

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