Affordable Housing for Young New Yorkers

Robert C. Quinlan

New York must entice talented newcomers by offering them truly affordable housing. I propose to rezone outer borough manufacturing areas that adjoin emerging residential neighborhoods as micro-housing enclaves. 

Micro-Apartments, measuring between 250 and 370sqft, have become an accepted idea. The City is exploring amending Department of Building regulations to accommodate micro-housing citywide. Yet the prototype in Kips Bay championed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development estimates monthly rents ranging from $940 to $1,800. We must create new housing with monthly rents no higher than $1,200 to attract innovative New York newcomers with technical and artistic skills to the city.

Under this proposal, the city would rezone manufacturing areas in the outer boroughs like Bushwick, Gowanus, Red Hook, and Long Island City to allow for micro-housing development. These are outlying areas where studios, sound stages, and nightlife are already emerging, largely without existing housing. This rezoning should not mandate costly residential amenities like community rooms and in-house gyms. Younger residents of small living units will seek to spend more time outside, animating the surrounding streets with cafes, beer gardens, and delis.

In addition, the City must create an incentive for developers and lenders by reviving the successful J-51 Tax Exemption Program. Eliminating property taxes for ten years will dramatically lower annual carrying costs, enabling developers to pass the reductions through to tenants in their rent. A ten-year tax exemption would motivate banks to lend in these emerging areas without affecting a developer’s cash flow expectations.

Robert C. Quinlan is Principal of Quinlan Development Group, a New York City-based real estate investment and development firm that he founded in 1971.

Image: Kohn Pedersen Fox.