Are our processes part of the solution, or part of the problem?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that New York City has an urgent housing supply and affordability crisis, with high housing costs, gentrification pressures, dramatic inequities and neighborhood exclusion. So why is it so difficult to mount actions to address these issues?
There are many ways in which statutory processes and the way they are administered make it more difficult to achieve progress toward policy goals. Good intentions are not enough. We must understand the incentives and disincentives created by our processes – including the potential for the process itself to deter the outcome we are seeking.
Zoning, for example, is a planning tool that – if used correctly – can help direct where the housing, jobs, and other facilities the city needs can be added. But when misused, even with good intentions, zoning becomes part of the problem, contributing to higher housing prices for everyone, fueling gentrification pressure, driving some New Yorkers to leave the city and leaving others inadequately housed or homeless. We’ve called this phenomenon “Illusionary Zoning.”
By dispelling illusions and highlighting potential reforms to the way our processes are structured and administered, this CHPC initiative aims to eliminate barriers hidden in the interactions among zoning, land use, and other public policy tools and approaches intended to alleviate our housing crisis.