Regional Plan Association calls for removal of state cap on residential building size

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Housing in New York’s Upper East Side (Wikimedia Commons)
Housing in New York’s Upper East Side (Wikimedia Commons)

Regional Plan Association (RPA), an urban planning group established in 1920, has been pushing for the abolishment of a state-imposed size limit on residential buildings in order to prevent displacement.

In its fourth long-term plan released Nov. 30, the RPA centered on addressing the housing needs of the metro region’s growing population without compromising affordability for residents struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, said the organization’s director of community planning and design Moses Gates.

The plan asserts the city could improve its affordable housing inventory by modifying a state law that limits the size of residential buildings. Gates said the regulation makes it difficult for the city to implement its recent affordable housing program in upper class areas such as the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, where city zoning laws have already permitted buildings to reach the state maximum.

RPA’s plan contends that if the size restriction is lifted, the city could pave the way for development of larger residents, but require at least one-fifth of the units to be rented out at prices below market-rate as mandated by the city’s inclusionary housing program.

“They’re the kind of very high-income areas and high-market areas that could really benefit from some mixed-income requirements on them,” Gates said. “I would say the 12 FAR cap being lifted is an idea whose time has come in short order.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has previously proposed to lift the state cap in a housing plan released in May 2014. Similarly, recent lobbying disclosure documents have shown the real estate industry’s chief lobbying group has been discussing the state-imposed cap with the city and state officials.