Zoning for Quality and Affordability

City Council Modifications and Adoption

On March 22, 2016, the City Council adopted the Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment with several modifications, described below.  View the PDF Document adopted zoning text amendment and the PDF Document adopted Transit Zone maps.

Summary of Council Modifications to ZQA


Use and Floor Area

  • Minimum Unit Size - ZQA proposed to eliminate unit density limitations and minimum unit sizes for affordable senior housing. The Council modifications establish a minimum unit size of 325 square feet for all affordable senior housing units.
  • Nursing Home special permit - ZQA proposed to eliminate requirements for special permits for the creation or enlargement of new nursing homes in many Community Districts. Under the Council modifications, a special permit will be retained in four Community Districts for new nursing homes or enlargements over 15,000 square feet. These are Bronx 11, Manhattan 8, Queens 14, and Staten Island 1.

  • New Defined Terms - ZQA included a series of new defined terms including “affordable independent residences for seniors” (“AIRS”), “long-term care facilities” (“LTCF”), and “income-restricted housing units”. The Council modifications add language specifying that AIRS and other income-restricted housing units must note the use on the building’s Certificate of Occupancy.

  • FAR for LTCF - ZQA proposed that LTCF receive the same maximum FAR as AIRS in a variety of zoning districts. In R6, R6A, R7, R7A districts, the FAR for AIRS is higher than the FAR permitted for Inclusionary Housing buildings. The Council modifications modify the permitted FAR for LTCFs in these 4 zoning districts to match what is permitted for Inclusionary Housing.

Height Changes

  • Low Density Senior Envelope - In low-density multifamily districts (R3-2, R4, and R5), ZQA proposed a maximum building height of 65’ for AIRS and LTCF. The Council’s modifications:

    • Retain current height and setback regulations in R3-2 districts
    • Allow a maximum height of 45’ in R4 districts
    • Allow a maximum height of 55’ for LTCF in R5 districts
    • Allow a maximum height of 45’ for AIRS in R5 districts, except on larger sites and in denser areas, where the maximum would be 55’
    • In R4 and R5 districts, permit these maximum heights only if there was no one- or two-family home on the site in the previous three years. 
    • Apply existing limits on lot coverage.
  • Qualifying Ground Floor - ZQA proposed to increase maximum heights in many medium and high density zoning districts by 5 feet for buildings with a ground floor at least 13 feet in height (defined as a “qualifying ground floor”). The Council modifications limit the applicability of this provision.

    • The 5-foot allowance does not apply in contextual districts within the Manhattan Core for buildings without Inclusionary Housing (“IH”), AIRS or LTCF
    • In contextual districts outside the Manhattan Core, the 5-foot height allowance applies to buildings without IH, AIRS or LTCF that meet ground-floor use and streetscape requirements, including minimum width and depth of non-residential uses, transparency standards (in Commercial Districts), and screening requirements for parking.
    • The original five-foot allowance applies to buildings in non-contextual districts, and buildings with IH, AIRS or LTCF in contextual districts.
  • Other Height Changes - ZQA proposed some height increases greater than 5 feet for buildings without IH, AIRS, or LTCF in certain high density districts. The Council modifications changed the following:

    • For buildings in non-contextual R8 districts that use the optional contextual regulations, max height on narrow streets, and wide streets outside the Manhattan Core, are reduced by 10 feet
    • For buildings in R9A, R9X and R10A districts, additional height increases not associated with the five-foot allowance or affordable housing were removed.
  • Height for IH/AIRS/LTCF - ZQA proposed additional height of generally 1-2 stories to accommodate the full floor area allowed for buildings with IH, AIRS or LTCF. The Council made modifications in three districts:

    • Maximum height in R7A districts (and for AIRS or LTCF in non-contextual R7 districts on narrow streets) is reduced by 10’, from 105’ to 95’ with a qualifying ground floor.
    • Similarly, in R7D districts, the maximum height for IH, AIRS or LTCF was reduced by 10’, from 125’ to 115 feet’ with a qualifying ground floor.
  • Narrow Buildings - The proposed modifications to the “sliver rule” were eliminated.

    Other Building Design Rules

    • Ground Floor Rear Yards - ZQA proposed to allow common areas in buildings with IH, AIRS or LTCF to occupy a ground floor to the rear of the building. The Council modifications limit this allowance to AIRS and LTCF on wide streets and in commercial districts.

    • Setback Requirements - The minimum required setback from a street line above the base height in a contextual building was modified from 5 feet to 7 feet.

    • Transition Rule - ZQA proposed modifications to the “transition rule,” which limits the height of buildings in higher-density districts when they adjoin certain lower-density districts. The Council modifications reduce the proposed maximum height in transition areas from 75 feet to 45, 55, or 65 feet, depending on the adjoining zoning districts.

    • On Irregular Sites

      • The Council modified the proposed reductions in rear yard requirements to apply to interior lots less than 90 feet deep (reduced from 95 feet), and through lots less than 180 feet deep (reduced from 190 feet).
      • Proposed changes to the minimum distance between buildings on a single zoning lot were eliminated.
      • The applicability of the BSA special permit to modify certain bulk regulations for contextual buildings on irregular sites was limited to buildings that contain housing that is at least 50 percent affordable. 


    Changes to Proposed Parking Provisions

    • Transit Zone - ZQA proposed a “Transit Zone” of multifamily districts that are accessible to transit, retail and services, and have low car ownership rates. In these areas, parking would be optional for affordable housing. The Council modified the boundaries of the Transit Zone to reduce their extent in portions of the Bronx, Queens, and South Brooklyn. 

    • Mixed-income BSA special permit - ZQA proposed to create a Board of Standards and Appeals (“BSA”) special permit to modify parking requirements for mixed-income developments. The Council modifications make this a special permit from the City Planning Commission rather than the BSA. The modifications retain a BSA special permit to modify the parking requirements for moderate- or middle-income units in government-assisted housing where at least 20 percent of all dwelling units are income-restricted housing units, and at least an additional 30 percent of all dwelling units are also restricted in rents.

    • Existing Parking - ZQA included provisions that allow existing, unnecessary required parking to be reduced or eliminated as-of-right (for AIRS in the Transit Zone) or by BSA special permit (for AIRS elsewhere, or income-restricted housing units within the Transit Zone). The Council’s modifications add conditions on the use of properties where parking is eliminated:

      • For existing AIRS, new market-rate housing could not be added
      • For other income-restricted housing units, new residential development must be found to further the creation or preservation of affordable housing on the site

    CCRC - ZQA proposed provisions allowing Continuing Care Retirement Communities (“CCRCs”), which combine independent living units with care facilities. The parking requirement proposed for such facilities was the requirement for community facilities. The Council modifications assign to the independent living portion of a CCRC the same parking requirement that applies to housing within the applicable zoning district.

    City Planning Commission Modifications

    On February 3, 2016, the City Planning Commission approved the Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment with 9 in favor, 3 opposed, and 1 abstention. The PDF Document text amendment* was approved with the following modifications:

    • Require a CPC Special Permit for all long-term care facilities in R1 and R2 districts

    • Permit ground-floor rear yard spaces on narrow streets in residence districts only for affordable senior housing and long-term care facilities<

    • Maintain wide and narrow height differences in R9A R9X, and R10A districts

    PDF Document View the City Planning Commission report.

    View PDF Document the zoning text amendment as adopted by the City Council.

    Public Review Process

    This zoning text amendment must go through the City’s full public land use review process. The Department of City Planning expects to introduce ZQA into public review in September, for review by Community Boards, Borough Presidents, Borough Boards, the City Planning Commission and City Council. This process is expected to take approximately six months.

    Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Notice Released February 2015
    Environmental Impact Statement Scoping Meeting March 2015
    Community Board Briefings and Information Sessions May-June 2015
    Beginning of Public Review September 21, 2015
    Community Board Review Fall 2015
    Borough President and Borough Board Review Fall 2015
    City Planning Commission Review Fall/Winter 2015-2016
    City Planning Commission Hearing December 16, 2015
    City Planning Commission Vote - PDF Document View the City Planning Commission report. February 3, 2016
    City Council Approval March 22, 2016

    Documents and more information: