The city’s land use review process can take anywhere from months to years. Mayor Eric Adams said he would shorten the timeline by eliminating certain requirements of the application process, including environmental reviews for smaller buildings. His office released a report that outlined more than 100 steps to accelerate the approval and building process.
New York City’s population growth has outpaced housing construction. Over the last decade, the city added 800,000 residents but only 200,000 new homes, according to the mayor.
“It’s not complicated, we have more people than homes.” Adams said during an address at City Hall.
But reaching his ambitious target — which includes the creation of market-rate units – could be difficult given the economic and regulatory climate. Like the rest of the country, the city is bracing for a recession that could slow investment and housing growth.
Adams’ predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, set forth in his first term a goal of building 200,000 affordable units in a decade. He reached that target by the end of his second term in 2021, aided greatly by 421-a, a tax incentive program that offered developers significant tax breaks in return for low-to-moderate income units.
The program expired earlier this year, and there have not been any serious talks to revive it.
Those in the real estate community have argued that developers will not be able to build without 421-a. However, opponents have argued that the subsidy resulted in too few apartments that were truly affordable, all at a cost of $1.77 billion in lost tax revenue a year.
“We need the legislative body to look at incentives to repair existing properties and housing, and to incentivize building more houses,” the mayor told reporters when asked whether he needed 421-a shortly after outlining his plan.
The mayor also announced two major planning efforts as part of the project one around four new Metro-North stations in the East Bronx that are set to open in 2027, and another along Atlantic Avenue in central Brooklyn. The Metro-North project— which predates Adams' tenure — has long been talked about an engine for neighborhood redevelopment.
Gentrification concerns have often thwarted or delayed development in New York City. But the growing urgency around the city’s housing shortage has helped recent projects reach the finish line. They include a roughly 350-unit project in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx and most recently a $2 billion mixed-use development in Astoria, Queens that is set to deliver around 3,200 units, 1,400 of which will be affordable.
Other elements of the mayor’s plan include reducing or eliminating parking requirements, which take up land needed for units, legalizing basement apartments, and facilitating the conversion of office buildings to residential buildings.
Housing is expected to be a focal point of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s agenda in the upcoming legislative session. Following the mayor’s address, she issued a statement praising his initiatives.
“With our state staring down a housing crisis, we will need every community, every town and every city to do its part to make housing accessible and affordable for all,” she said. “My administration is ready to meet the housing crisis head-on in partnership with Mayor Adams and other local and state officials.”