Yes to Housing in God’s Backyard

by Mayor Eric Adams

Mayor Eric Adams announced additional details to help faith-based organizations build critically needed affordable housing during a visit to the Antioch Baptist Church to ministers at the church. Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

When we came into office, we had a clear mission: protect public safety, rebuild our economy as quickly as possible, and make our city more livable for New Yorkers. The key to livability is affordable housing. It is the bedrock on which New Yorkers can build a family, a life, or continue living in the city they love. However, insufficient affordable housing is currently available to meet our city’s needs.

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s 2023 Housing and Vacancy Survey showed that our city has a vacancy rate of 1.4 percent, the lowest this measurement has been since 1968. Building more housing is the only way to increase rental availability and lower prices. To build more affordable housing, we must think creatively and bring every partner to the table. No partner has been more willing to answer the call than our faith-based organizations. They have been on the frontline of every crisis — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the asylum seeker crisis. Houses of worship have always opened their doors to those most in need. Now, they want to lend a helping hand in creating critically needed affordable housing. However, because of outdated and antiquated zoning laws that go back generations, houses of worship have been told ‘no.’ But those days are over.

Our city must stop saying ‘no’ and instead say ‘yes’: ‘yes’ to housing in God’s backyard. Under our ‘City of Yes’ plan — the most pro-housing plan in our city’s history — we use every tool at our disposal to build more housing in every neighborhood, including doing away with outdated zoning rules that prevent us from developing the housing we desperately need. This means giving our houses of worship the flexibility to build homes on their campuses, permitting the creation of much-needed three-to-five-story buildings on large lots owned by faith-based organizations, and allowing landmarked houses of worship to permit unused land on their sites to be used for development.

These changes to our zoning rules will help faith-based groups generate revenue, add more affordable housing across the five boroughs, and develop new resources and facilities for congregations when some are struggling to make ends meet. The changes will support everyday New Yorkers who need affordable homes and our communities of faith. This April, our ‘City of Yes for Housing Opportunity’ plan will enter a public review, and the City Council will vote on it by the end of the year.

“Our city must stop saying ‘no’ and instead say ‘yes’: ‘yes’ to housing in God’s backyard. Under our ‘City of Yes’ plan — the most pro-housing plan in our city’s history — we use every tool at our disposal to build more housing in every neighborhood, including doing away with outdated zoning rules that prevent us from developing the housing we desperately need.”

While we do everything we can on a city level with our ‘City of Yes’ plan, we also need the state to act. At this moment, state leaders are negotiating a budget deal in Albany. We need their deal to include a new incentive for affordable housing construction and a tax incentive for office-to-residential conversions. We also need the state to repeal the outdated FAR Cap, which will allow us to add more housing in residential neighborhoods and give New York City the power to legalize existing basement apartments to meet health and safety standards. Finally, we need Albany to pass the Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act, which says ‘yes’ to building affordable housing on the properties of faith institutions.

This fight is personal for me. I know what it feels like to live without the security of housing because I grew up on the edge of homelessness. My siblings and I had to carry trash bags full of clothes to school because we didn’t know where to sleep the next night. That is no way to live.

And it’s no way to live for countless New Yorkers who want to continue to live in the city they love so much. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that affordable housing was critical to our country’s future, and we know today that it is essential to the future of our city. It was Dr. King who called out discriminatory practices by landlords and realtors that kept Black Americans out of specific neighborhoods. And it was Dr. King who advocated for the Fair Housing Act, the landmark legislation that was finally passed by Congress the week after he was assassinated.

But his life’s work did not end with that bullet. We continue to fight for it today so that all New Yorkers can live with the dignity, security, and peace of mind they deserve.

You may also like

Leave a Comment