Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) were a logical choice for plugging L.A.’s housing crisis. The sprawling metropolis of single-family homes had plenty of space in its backyards for small, compact rental apartments. Is it possible to realize something similar in New York City?
Yesterday, New York Mayor Eric Adams declared his ambition to build 100,000 new homes for 250,000 New Yorkers at Borough of Manhattan Community College. The announcement marks the Adams administration’s boldest acclamation yet to tackle New York’s housing problem. He even floated the “moonshot” goal of delivering 500,000 new homes over the next decade.
In New York, unlike L.A., where open space is lacking, the only choice it seems is to either go up or down. Mayor Adams said his plan would allow for up to four stories of new units to be built above existing single-story buildings like laundromats and delis. His plan would also allow for new units to be built in basements and attics. It also incentivizes building owners to convert office spaces into residential dwellings. Adams also floated building on vacant parking lots and repealing mandates that require new residential buildings to have parking spaces.
Perhaps the most radical idea Adams floated yesterday morning came when he supported building smaller dwelling units than are currently legal to pack in as many rentals in new buildings as possible. The remark echoed previous statements where New York’s Mayor has posed infringing upon public safety regulations and amenities many consider sacred, including an idea floated in March on whether bedrooms in New York need windows.
The plan is also in line with the Mayor’s vision for a “scalable design solution” that would build Section 8 housing on top of NYCHA playgrounds, parking lots, and open space in general located at Section 9 properties around the city; a vision that’s been called a landgrab by the City Council but endorsed by some New York architects.
“So many of the challenges we face as a city are rooted in an ongoing housing shortage that is forcing too many people to leave New York City and making life increasingly difficult for those who stay,” Adams said at the announcement. “For more than 60 years, we have added layers upon layers of regulations, effectively outlawing the kinds of housing that our city has long relied on. Today, we are proposing the most pro-housing changes in the history of New York City’s modern zoning code — changes that will remove longstanding barriers to opportunity, finally end exclusionary zoning, cut red tape, and transform our city from the ground up,” he continued.
“This plan will spur an additional 100,000 new homes for a quarter-million New Yorkers,” Adams continued. “If we do this right, decades from now, New Yorkers will see this moment for what it was: a turning point away from exclusionary policies and outdated ideas and towards a brighter, bolder, more equitable future — the moment when we came together and decided to be a ‘City of Yes.’”