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How will the “City of Yes” Affect Zoning and Construction in NYC?

On April 11, 2024, the NYC Department of City Planning unveiled the details of the proposed City of Yes for Housing Opportunity (CYHO), which is the third part of the most ambitious and comprehensive overhaul of New York City’s zoning ordinance since its adoption in 1961.

CYHO was preceded last December by the City Council’s approval of City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality, which supports New York’s climate goals to reduce by 80% operational carbon emissions by 2050 with zoning changes to transform the city’s energy grid, enable retrofitting of buildings for energy efficiency, and shifting to electric vehicles, transit, and other modes. 

CYHO also follows the City Planning Commission’s approval in March of City of Yes for Economic Opportunity, which is slated to be acted on by the City Council next month. 

The Economic Opportunity zoning proposals will remove outdated limitations on businesses and seek to ensure that local retail streets and commercial centers across the city can remain lively places that sustain our neighborhoods, with 18 broad zoning initiatives meant to modernize citywide zoning rules by doing things like filling vacant storefronts and allowing businesses to open and expand in areas they are currently barred from.

That brings us to CYHO, which includes sweeping zoning changes aimed at producing 100,000 new homes across the five boroughs over the next 15 years. 

Among its hallmark initiatives is the Universal Affordability Preference (UAP), which looks to expand New York’s inclusionary housing program to virtually every neighborhood where medium to high density development is allowed.  The program creates a bonus of at least 20% more residential floor area over what presently is permitted, if the additional floor area is dedicated to permanently affordable housing based upon affordability bands that will reach families with household incomes below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).  To accommodate the boost in floor area, the UAP will also allow increased building heights.

A second benchmark of CYHO involves new zoning rules to facilitate the conversion of office and other buildings for housing. Currently, the Zoning Resolution only allows conversions of non-residential buildings to residential use in primarily central business districts for buildings built before 1961 and in portions of Lower Manhattan, for buildings built before 1977. In Mixed-Use (“MX”) Districts (special districts that allow both light manufacturing and residential development on the same property), the current cutoff date is 1997.  With the proposed zoning changes, conversions would be permitted in all buildings constructed before 1991 in any area where residential uses are allowed, although the 1997 cut-off date for MX Districts will remain unchanged.

CYHO’s far reaching changes also will include:

  • “Town center zoning,” to overcome current zoning restrictions that often do not allow housing above ground floor businesses in lower density neighborhoods, to help foster development of mixed-use neighborhoods with new housing and small business.
  • Removal of existing accessory parking mandates for new housing which drive up costs for developers, boost rents, and produce less housing, although the new rules will preserve the option to provide parking.
  • Conversion to “accessory dwelling units,” which will allow homeowners to convert into small homes their unused space such as backyard cottages, garages, and basement areas, which will be limited to 800 square feet and subject to zoning and building codes to ensure that they are safe and fit within the neighborhood.
  • Encouragement of “transit-oriented development,” by removing the restriction on modest 3-5 story apartment buildings in lower density areas, allowing such development where they fit best on large lots fronting on wide streets or corners within a half mile of a subway or rail station.


The proposed City of Yes for Housing Opportunity is expected to enter public review in the Spring of 2024, starting with the city’s 59 community boards and five borough presidents, then going to the City Planning Commission and, if approved, reaching the City Council for approval by the end of 2024.

Please reach out to Howard Weiss or Eli Gewirtz of our Land Use & Zoning Law Practice Group to learn more about all three components of the City of Yes, as well as any other questions in connection with the use and development of your property within the city’s extensive zoning, land use, and building code regulatory framework.

About the Authors

Howard S. Weiss is a Senior Partner, attorney and Chair the Land Use & Zoning and Administrative Law groups. 

Eli Gewirtz, AICP is a zoning and land use attorney in our NYC Government Relations, Land Use & Zoning and Administrative Law practices and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Land Use & Zoning Law

Learn more about our Land Use and Zoning law practice and how we help landowners and prospective landowners, developers, engineers and architects with as-of-right development options and development rights transfers, as well as the steps to obtain necessary discretionary approvals such as zoning map changes, zoning text amendments, special permits, zoning variances and development on landmark properties.
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