Last Thursday, the Regional Plan Association warned that the government must make changes to laws limiting new construction, or face a dire housing shortage which will particularly inflict low-income residents of the Tristate region. The group, which publishes only once each generation, distributed its fourth region plan. The blueprint states that over the next 25 years, the tristate area will need to double the number of new dwellings to curtail the housing crisis, and house the growing population. The organization says this goal may be attainable if the government steps up to allow more construction and re-writes laws which have prevented denser development.
As reported by Crain’s NY, the plan suggests that the municipals can successfully add 1 million new units just by tapping into vacant or extra space in existing apartments and homes. If single-family homes would be permitted to rent out superfluous space such as basements or garages, the region could create roughly 500,000 additional apartments without any major undertaking. Currently, zoning regulations limit these types of expansions out of fear of overcrowding public resources, including parking, septic tanks, schools and the likes.
Some people fear that loosening regulations would cause an influx of lower-income residents, straining the city’s infrastructure. Moreover, some experts believe that many of these basement apartments are already utilized informally, and legalizing them would only make them more expensive. A pilot program in East New York is already testing the legalization of basement apartments. The project is considered a low priority for Mayor de Blasio’s administration.
The report makes other recommendations. It says that there is space to build 250,000 more apartments if the government were to permit multifamily construction on the parking lots of commuter rail stations. The new neighborhoods would be walkable, and should be built with stores, offices, schools, parks, and community space to support them. The study describes that as autonomous vehicles are gaining popularity, the need for the abundant parking lots adjacent to rail stations will vastly decrease within 20 years, and that this land should be better appropriated. “As technology emerges that will free space within some of New York’s most accessible suburbs, now is the time to consider our suburban planning holistically- and fully commit to a transit-oriented development strategy throughout the region,” said Tom Wright, President of RPA.
Other ideas mentioned by the plan include taxing vacant lands, and second houses which are not in use. Also mentioned, was lifting restrictions as to how big buildings can be built.
By: Ilana Siyance