New York City says ‘yes’ to housing in God’s backyard


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 everyday New Yorkers.

The key to livability is affordable housing. It is the bedrock on which New Yorkers can build a family, build a life, or simply continue to live in the city they love.

But there is currently not enough affordable housing to meet our city’s needs.

The city’s housing preservation and development department’s housing and vacancy survey showed that our city has a vacancy rate of 1.4 percent in 2023 — the lowest this measurement has been since 1968.

The only way to create more rental availability and lower prices is to build more housing. 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 worships 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However, because of outdated and antiquated zoning laws that go back generations, houses of worship have been told “no.”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we are using every tool at our disposal to build a little more housing in every neighborhood, including doing away with outdated zoning rules that prevent us from developing the housing we desperately need.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 at a moment when some are struggling to make ends meet.

Our City Council will vote on the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity by the end of the year.

This fight is personal for me. I know what 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 we would 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 critical for the future of our city.

We are continuing to fight for Dr. King’s life work today so that all New Yorkers can live with the dignity, security, and peace of mind that they deserve.

The author is mayor of New York City

Eric Adams Mayor of New York City Affordable housing City of Yes plan Faith-based organizations Zoning laws Housing crisis Livability New York City Vacancy rate Housing development Rental availability Housing preservation Economic rebuilding Public safety