Steering the New Course: policy ideas for the new administration


CHPC’s Ideas for Housing and Land Use Policy in New York City

With so much political change in New York this year, we felt that it was important to set out our suggestions and priorities for housing and land use policy based on all of CHPC’s work over recent years. We always aim to be a resource for decision-makers inside and outside of government – to help them to understand NYC’s most pressing housing and neighborhood issues, think through the real impact of policy on the three-dimensional built environment, and map out realistic policy steps for housing and land use that can result in positive change for our city and all New Yorkers.

The content of this publication does not cover every single policy area that we believe the administration should explore. Instead, it focuses on the research and education work that has been undertaken in-depth by CHPC in recent years; the areas where we can offer our unique insight. These suggestions will continue to develop as we expand our workplan through 2014.

CHPC’s research and analysis has been summarized into five key challenges that the city is facing:

1. The Growing City

We have a growing population trying to break into a housing market with a historic shortage of supply. Estimates range from an additional 600,000-850,000 New Yorkers expected by 2030.

We need to expand our housing supply as cost effectively as possible, not just by focusing on financial solutions, but also on planning, zoning, and building reforms.

2. The Hidden City

At least 250,000 New Yorkers are estimated to be sharing housing in some informal or illegal way, creating an economic and legal inequality that renders even basic fire safety and lease protection a distant hope for residents.

We need to encourage the development of new housing models that safely and legally accommodate additional density within our existing housing stock, while protecting and supporting the needs of our non-traditional households.

3. The City of Aging Buildings

Our housing stock is aging—87% of our housing units were built before 1973. The associated problems are especially acute in our public housing buildings, which face unsustainable budget gaps along with growing infrastructure needs.

We need to protect and preserve our vulnerable rental stock by designing government interventions to meet the most pressing needs.

4.The City of Neighborhoods

Despite $5.34 billion of city investment in housing over the last 12 years, the families that enter the shelter system today still largely come from the same neighborhoods as they did 30 years ago—in Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Northern Manhattan. More troubling is that new neighborhoods are now added to the list, like Williamsbridge in the Bronx and Jamaica in Queens.

There are also neighborhoods that have experienced unprecedented growth by new immigrant groups in recent years but do not receive any attention from the government in terms of housing policy or investment.

We need government agencies to come together to strategically target and help our neighborhoods that are most in need.

5. The Damaged City

Over a year ago, Hurricane Sandy caused $19 billion in damage to private and public property in New York City and the loss of 48 lives. This natural catastrophe has led to the wholesale economic displacement of communities, with only 4 homeowners beginning to repair their homes through the city’s Build it Back program to date.

We still need to repair and rebuild our neighborhoods after Sandy and reshape the city’s housing response to this and future crises.


You can read the full publication here (pdf):













Making Room…in Atlanta

One of the highlights of 2013  – a year jam-packed full of landmark moments for CHPC – has been working with the Georgia Tech School of Architecture in the development of a design + research studio for graduate students entitled 21st Century Housing: Making Room in the Contemporary City.

The studio, headed by Associate Professor and Architect Michael Gamble, challenges student teams to put together full design proposals for mixed residential/commercial developments that incorporate high-performance active and passive energy systems. The brief is already extremely challenging. They have to conduct their own site selection–picking sites that are not only available for development, but that will enhance the neighborhood and follow urbanist principles. They have to combine innovative architecture with cutting-edge building technologies. They have to conduct energy analysis to ensure that their proposal has zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions. They have to develop a financially viable building.

Georgia Tech School of Architecture design studio

Georgia Tech School of Architecture design studio

Earlier this year, Georgia Tech graduate Stephen Taul visited the Making Room exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Stephen felt a strong connection between the Making Room proposals and the design + research studio undertaken by the Georgia Tech graduate architecture students. The goal of their studio is to develop fully-realized buildings that actually respond to environmental realities, as well as support the needs of 21st century city. The exhibition made Stephen feel that it would be valuable to extend this goal even further and to ask the students to also find ways for their proposals to respond to the ‘social and demographic realities’ of Atlanta – by incorporating some alternative housing unit typologies.

Atlanta is experiencing the same demographic and lifestyle shifts as cities all over the US. People are staying single for longer, which is reshaping household arrangements in radical ways. The traditional nuclear family household is declining, giving rise to a boom in single person households and households with multiple adults sharing. In addition, Atlanta is also experiencing a surge in demand for housing in the urban center that has good public transport connections and convenient amenities.

One of the proposals by the Georgia Tech students

One of the proposals by the Georgia Tech students


Stephen reached out to CHPC to consult on the program, and we met with him and Michael Gamble to help them understand the Making Room principles and the strategies for demographic analysis that we have employed. And Resource Furniture, our partners in the Making Room exhibition, became sponsors of the studio, alongside the Alcoa Foundation, Architecture for Humanity Pillar of Sustainable Education, and Southface.

And with astonishing speed and expertise, the 21st Century Housing studio was developed in time for the fall semester. The first semester is to select a site, develop the general concept for the proposal, undertake demographic analysis to understand the lifestyles of the potential clients, and design the building and the housing unit layouts. In the spring semester, students will focus on the interiors and the materials for the building envelope.

You can read all of the details of the studio on their dedicated website.

On December 3, CHPC’s Sarah Watson was thrilled to be invited to be a part of the panel for their end of semester design review to see the student’s work so far.

The students and review team!

The students and review team!

Sarah was deeply excited and inspired by the student’s proposals. Most especially, it was startlingly impressive to see such a confident understanding of the Making Room principles – about how housing and interior design can respond to demographic and lifestyle shifts. To blend this with urban planning, urban renewal, sustainability and urbanism was really exhilarating.

Many of the projects responded directly to Atlanta’s growing single-person households by developing well-designed compact apartments in dense buildings, for single adults of all ages. At the review, we had lots of fun debates about the accompanying communal spaces of such buildings, and management strategies that ensure their success. One student was so committed to housing for single adults that she did not want to be on a team; she wanted to go solo! She designed a highly dense building of split level studios which would have fit it well in our exhibition. And one team took the notion of ‘extra housing options’ so far that they created an endless menu of design options for their small studios so that they would satisfy single adults of all ages and backgrounds.

Team (of one) presents their micro-unit building

Team (of one) presents their micro-unit building

Other proposals reexamined the definition of a ‘housing unit’ and included live/work blended spaces, or accessory units that could be rented out or used to accommodate adult family members. The urban carriage houses of one proposal were an excellent idea to create a sub-unit attached to a townhouse.

Building proposal that would be seen in the Atlanta skyline

Building proposal that would be seen in the Atlanta skyline

For more details on the studio and the review, read Resource Furniture’s blog here – which also takes a sneaky look at Sarah and Lisa Blecker’s downtime in Atlanta after the review (it includes a peek at Atlanta’s amazing food scene).

Keep an eye on our website for more updates on this program as the school year continues. We would like to extend huge thanks to Michael Gamble, Stephen Taul, Dr. Steven French, and the faculty of the Georgia Tech School of Architecture for allowing us to contribute to this incredibly exciting studio, and for funding our travel and accommodation to take part in the review. And – as always – thank you so much to Resource Furniture for their continued partnership, friendship, and support of the Making Room initiative and CHPC. 



CHPC visits the Making Room design studio in Atlanta, Georgia!

After visiting the Making Room exhibition earlier this year,  Stephen Taul of the Georgia Institute of Technology was inspired that a design and research studio at the School of Architecture based on this initiative could be a great way to engage students as part of their interdisciplinary seminar: Net Zero Energy Housing.

Along with others at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture, he has put together a Fall 2013 Spring 2014 Design and Research Studio entitled  On Urban Dwelling: Making Room in the Contemporary City 

 The series of seminars and studios focuses on the design and construction of medium-scaled ecologically-sensitive residential developments.   Research into demographic change in sunbelt cities such as Atlanta is the basis from which the studio seeks intelligent design solutions to emerging housing typologies. Cities continue to move away from satellite single family bedroom communities towards center city, mid and high-rise housing blocks, creating the need for a sustained focus on what constitutes a viable public and affordable private realm.

CHPC is delighted to be offered the opportunity to visit the students who will be presenting their Fall semester work as part of a design review! Sarah Watson will be attending the school from December 4-5 and will report back with news of the students’ work.


Places of Change: Transitional Shelter to Permanent Resource

Last Friday, October 25th, over 20 experts on homeless policy, government, finance, architecture, and the hospitality industry came together for an engaging roundtable discussion, “Places of Change: Transitional Shelter to Permanent Resource.” This was a unique opportunity for those assembled to draw across experience and industry to rethink shelter design.

Chef Christopher Bradley discusses shared dining options.

Chef Christopher Bradley discusses shared dining options.

The question at the heart of the discussion was; “How can more flexible facilities be designed as resources to the city, those in need, and the communities where they are located?”

Inspired by CHPC’s Making Room project, DHS staff considered facility design ideas that are able to adapt to changing family sizes and changing demand. The discussion, which was over a year in the making, got the ball rolling on many new and exciting ideas for how to change shelter systems from perceived burden to community asset.

Many of the suggestions for re-imagining emergency shelters focused on creating, maintaining, and making community oriented spaces both more inviting and utilitarian. This was a great starting point, and we look forward to continuing the conversation.

What do you think could change shelter facilities to better serve New Yorkers most in need? How can they be better integrated into the surrounding community? How can cost effectiveness also be improved?

Click here for the full report, and to see how the roundtable participants answered these questions.


CHPC Discusses Three-Quarter Houses

CHPC’s Executive Director, Jerilyn Perine, participated today in the panel discussion following the presentation of Three-Quarter Houses: The View from the Inside at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This report by Robert Riggs and Tasha Burnett analyzes the role of three-quarter houses in the recovery and reintegration process for people facing substance abuse or who have been recently released from prison. The report also sheds light on the poor conditions in many three-quarter houses and the requirements that operators commonly place on residents to participate in recovery programs. 

The panel discussion, which was moderated by Ann Jacobs from the Prisoner Reentry Institute, also featured Joanne Page from The Fortune Society and Tanya Kessler from MFY Legal Services. The panelists discussed the challenges to enforcing tenant protections in three-quarter houses and the need to ensure that residents can access the treatment programs and social services they need rather than those for which operators receive funding. Jerilyn Perine put three-quarter houses in the context of the many informal housing arrangements that have emerged in response to an outdated housing stock that no longer meets the needs of increasing numbers of single-person households.

Through its Making Room initiative, CHPC has been focused on exploring regulatory changes that would enable the development and legalization of smaller units to provide safe housing to the rising numbers of single-person households, such as those currently finding their only options in underground three-quarter houses.

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