Solving NYC’s Housing Crisis: City of Yes Proposal Seeks To Allow Churches To Build Housing On Their Land More Easily With Zoning Law Modernization

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MAYOR ADAMS UNVEILS PLAN TO HELP FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NYC

Part of ‘City of Yes’ Proposal to Modernize Outdated Zoning Laws, Initiative Makes it Easier for Faith- Based Organizations to Deliver Critically-Needed Affordable Housing

Editor’s note: We’ve previously covered the proposals in the City of Yes Initiative by Asm. Pirozzolo here, where he raises some issues with the program.  Allowing churches to utilize their property to build more affordable housing to help solve the crisis is the latest proposal in this initiative.  CM Hanks also weighed in on this environmental initiative here

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced additional details in his plan to help faith-based organizations and other mission-based nonprofits build critically-needed affordable housing across the five boroughs. As a key proposal in the Adams administration’s historic “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity” plan — a proposed set of zoning changes that aims to combat the city’s housing crisis by adding “a little more housing in every neighborhood” — the plan will unlock the ability for faith-based organizations to add new housing on their property and generate income for their organizations by updating zoning laws to make it easier to create much-needed new housing on their property or convert older buildings to housing. As New York City faces a generational housing crisis with a 1.4 percent rental vacancy rate, the Adams administration is proposing bold, forward-thinking solutions to deliver the housing that New Yorkers need. The Adams administration’s City of Yes for Housing Opportunity proposal will enter public review this spring and be voted on by the New York City Council by the end of the year.

“Our administration is throwing open the door to new solutions and new housing that will help us solve the housing crisis by working with our churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations,” said Mayor Adams. “Today, we are saying ‘yes in God’s backyard,’ and enabling faith-based organizations and non-profits to convert old convents, school buildings, and other properties into desperately-needed housing. Faith leaders remain on the frontlines of countless issues and now they will play an even more active role in building more housing and reclaiming our city for working-class New Yorkers. This is a fight for the soul of our city. So it’s fitting to engage so many leaders who not only understand our housing crisis, but stand ready to help solve it.”


“New York’s decades-long housing crisis is at one of the most severe points in our city’s history, but ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ offers a simple yet sweeping idea: solve our housing shortage by adding a little more housing in every neighborhood,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “We must leave no stone unturned in making our city more affordable, including locations where faith-based and mission-driven organizations are critical partners. Our churches, mosques, and synagogues have the land and the will to build — it’s time we let them.”

“Faith-based organizations are on the frontlines of our housing crisis, feeling its impact on their congregations and providing critical services to New Yorkers in need,” said New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) Director and City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Dan Garodnick. “When our trusted community leaders and faith-based organization partners want to step up and provide much-needed affordable housing, we should be doing everything we can to support them — not throwing up barriers. ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ would support faith-based and other mission-oriented organizations as critical partners to address our housing crisis.”

“Faith-based organizations provide critical services to New Yorkers across our many neighborhoods, yet many have been severely challenged by the consequences of our housing shortage,” said Executive Director for Housing Leila Bozorg. “As we work to unlock ‘a little more housing in every neighborhood’ through our ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ proposal, it’s important that we make it as easy as possible for faith-based organizations to say, ‘yes in God’s backyard’ — leveraging the assets they have to build more homes and thereby ease the burden of our housing crises for all our neighbors.”

“For far too long, efforts to create and provide affordable housing, has been nothing less than a ‘City of No,’” said Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships Executive Director Pastor Gilford T. Monrose. “Myriad outdated zoning requirements have stymied our ability to think creatively and provide the avenues for our faith-based institutions to efficiently utilize their facilities in a manner that can provide for the development and availability of severely needed affordable housing. I both thank and commend Mayor Adams for making what has been a ‘City of No’ into a ‘City of Yes.’ All of us in the faith-based community welcome the zoning changes, and review by the DCP, and look forward to working with community boards and other local interest groups in expanding housing opportunities for both homeless and low-income New Yorkers.”

“We’re focused on one major goal: getting the tools we need to create more affordable housing,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “With our city in crisis and the fewest homes available in over 50 years, we must explore every possible solution and that includes changing outdated, arbitrary zoning laws. The faith community already serves our city in so many ways and they’re ready to step up to create affordable housing on their own land. We need to say ‘yes’ everywhere! ‘Yes’ to affordable housing! ‘Yes’ to a future where all families can afford to live in the greatest city on earth!”

City of Yes for Housing Opportunity supports faith-based organizations by lifting arbitrary, outdated zoning laws that prevent campuses — large lots, frequently with multiple buildings on them — from using existing development rights to create new housing on available land. The proposal will enable organizations to convert their underused properties, including convents and school buildings, into housing anywhere in New York City where residential use is allowed. It will also grant community facilities, like faith-based organizations, the ability to develop more housing by providing additional development rights and flexibility. Finally, City of Yes for Housing Opportunity will expand the Landmarks Transferable Development Rights program, which enables landmarked buildings to transfer unused development rights to nearby sites, making it easier for landmarked religious institutions to raise urgently needed funds, all while delivering more housing to New Yorkers.

To support faith-based organizations as they provide critical services to New Yorkers, City of Yes for Housing Opportunity will make it easier to deliver affordable housing to their local communities and bring in additional revenue for repairs and new facilities, while lowering the cost of living and helping longtime congregants stay near their houses of worship. The Adams administration has worked closely with the faith community in developing the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity plan and other innovative housing policies, including providing faith-based organizations with the education and resources they need to launch their affordable housing projects and connections to experts to guide them through the development process, through the New York City Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships and the Adams administration’s Working Group on Faith-Based Affordable Housing and Community Development.

City of Yes for Housing Opportunity is the most pro-housing set of zoning changes in New York’s history. City of Yes for Housing Opportunity also includes lifting arbitrary and costly parking mandates for new residential construction; the Universal Affordability Preference, a bonus allowing roughly 20 percent more housing in developments, so long as the additional homes are affordable; transit-oriented development and Town Center zoning, which would allow three-to-five story apartment buildings to be built near transit and along commercial corridors, respectively; and allowing homeowners to add accessory homes like backyard cottages.

DCP is currently undertaking environmental review on the proposal and will refer it for public review by community boards and borough presidents later this spring. It is anticipated to come before the CPC and the New York City Council for a vote before the end of the year.

To accelerate housing production and deliver relief to New Yorkers, the Adams administration has advanced a number of creative solutions, including laying out an office conversion accelerator to advance conversions more quickly; unveiling new proposed rules to streamline approvals for sustainable housing; and debuting several pilot programs to help fund the creation of accessory dwelling unitshelp move New Yorkers out of shelters and into renovated apartments, and help fuel mixed-income developments in neighborhoods across the city; among other innovative efforts.

City of Yes for Housing Opportunity is the third of the Adams administration’s three “City of Yes” initiatives to update New York City’s zoning for a more sustainable, prosperous, and affordable city. The first — “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality”— was adopted by the City Council in December. The second — “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” was approved by the CPC on March 6 and is being considered by the City Council.

“Confronting New York’s housing crisis requires innovative solutions and equitable contributions to produce more homes in every part of the city,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Churches and houses of worship can contribute to the city’s housing goals, while being strengthened by the opportunity to develop housing, and citywide zoning changes that facilitate this outcome are important to consider. It is imperative for us to engage all institutions and stakeholders in the efforts to address our housing crisis.”

“Mayor Adams and I know that our religious institutions are deeply rooted in communities across the city and state,” said New York State Assemblymember Brian Cunningham. “As community conveners, they can play a key role in meeting New York’s housing needs. I am proud to sponsor the Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act in Albany, and wholeheartedly support the mayor’s efforts to empower faith organizations to build affordable housing in New York City.”


“To tackle New York’s affordable housing crisis, we need to use all the tools in our toolkit,” said New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “By enabling religious institutions to develop affordable housing, we’re empowering them to serve New York’s most vulnerable while ensuring their own financial stability, too. This proposal by Mayor Adams complements my own statewide Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act, and I’m grateful for his administration’s efforts to ensure all New Yorkers have an affordable place to live.”

“In echoing Jesus’ mission to shelter those in need, ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ stands as a beacon of compassion,” said New York State Senator James Sanders Jr. “I applaud our churches and Mayor Adams for unlocking this vital path to creating more affordable housing. We must also recognize the importance of coordinating and harmonizing these efforts with the local community.”

“In a city where half of renters are rent burdened, we must think outside the box and utilize every resource to provide affordable housing for New Yorkers,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “The groundbreaking ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ plan taps into one of the most dynamic and compassionate cross-sections of New York City: our faith community. Whether mosque or church or synagogue or temple or gurdwara, our houses of worship have always opened their doors to everyone in need. These institutions will now serve the people of our city in a new way by creating affordable housing on their properties. In Albany, I am fighting to pass comprehensive legislation to produce more affordable housing. Today’s initiative is part of our plan to use every tool in the arsenal so that all New Yorkers have stable, affordable housing.”

“We must leave no stone unturned in addressing the city’s housing crisis and ensuring our families have an affordable place to call home,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “We’re grateful to our faith-based organizations who have expressed a desire to help house our neighbors, and I look forward to working with the administration on the ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ program as we continue to address this crisis.”

“Faith leaders all over Brooklyn are searching for opportunities to reimagine their properties on behalf of the greater good, and the mayor’s ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ plan will help enable them to do just that by developing new and affordable housing,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “It is clear that our city needs more housing, and we need it fast. This plan recognizes that it’s not enough to solely convert existing spaces into housing — we must also clear the path for new development on available land. I’m so grateful to our faith leaders who have long been leading by example, offering up every inch of space they have toward supporting our communities, and I thank Mayor Adams for seeking to chip away at barriers to new housing growth.”

“Tackling New York City’s housing crisis requires using every tool at our disposal. That includes pillars in communities like faith-based organizations that want to do good by creating more housing,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “I’m happy to see the city opening the door for even more organizations to get involved in solving our housing crisis

Banner Image: NYC apartment.  Image Credit – Carp Jennifer


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