New York City is facing an era of unprecedented circumstances. As the city battles an ongoing global pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, it is also dealing with concurrent crises of housing affordability and homelessness, racial and economic inequality, and climate change. While these issues emerged long before the onset of COVID-19, the pandemic has only made them worse, and the need for solutions is even more urgent. Zoning and regulatory reform must play a key role in the advancement of a pathway forward.
While no zoning or code change is a silver bullet, reform is necessary to support the execution of policies and plans that advance a shared vision for the future of NYC. Zoning and regulatory reforms are essential to ensuring that planning efforts can achieve their intended impacts and goals.
The potential for NYC to resolve these problems, and to emerge and recover from today’s crisis era, will depend on its ability to adapt to new circumstances and build on lessons learned. COVID-19 forced the city to function in entirely new ways, revealing aspects of our old systems that are less important, or more fl exible and adaptable, than we previously thought. At the same time, the last two years have both highlighted and worsened the impacts of community needs left unmet for too long. Rather than striving to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, the city must leverage the lessons that this crisis has brought to bear towards the creation of a future that is more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable than our past.
Zoning and regulatory reform must play a key role in the advancement of a pathway forward. The rules and regulations governing development in NYC are so complex that there are entire industries built on interpreting them. Many aspects of building design and construction are subject to several different requirements in various codes. Significant parts of the Zoning Resolution have not been updated for several decades and are misaligned with modern-day policy goals. With such an elaborate thicket of regulations in play, the built environment has been unable to keep up with changing circumstances and needs.
While no zoning or code change is a silver bullet, reform is necessary to support the execution of policies and plans that advance a shared vision for the future of NYC. Zoning and regulatory reforms are essential to ensuring that planning efforts can achieve their intended impacts and goals. In a time when the economy is struggling, and public resources are scarce, zoning and regulatory reform can streamline and expedite the development that NYC needs. Finally, creating a more flexible regulatory environment will allow NYC to better respond and adapt to the impacts of future pandemics, climate disasters, recessions, and more.
After more than a year of research and consultation with experts across the housing and planning sectors, CHPC is thrilled to release our latest publication, Onward and Upward: A technical guide to zoning and regulatory reform in the crisis era. Onward and Upward offers a detailed guide to the zoning and regulatory changes necessary to create a new housing supply with a focus on affordability, equity, sustainability, and economic recovery.
This vision for New York is reflected in Mayor Adams’ City of Yes campaign and recently issued housing plan. The recommendations set out in Onward and Upward offer a technical roadmap to advance the new administration’s goals and priorities.
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