Brooklyn Law Review


Nathan T. Boone


As Millennials repopulate American cities and seek jobs in creative industries, housing affordability has risen to the forefront of urban policy battles. Major conflicts exist between homeowners, renters, municipal governments, and growing industries regarding the proper way to grapple with an influx of new capital, both financial and human. New York City is a prime example of this problem. Housing cost increases have exceeded income increases, leaving a large percentage of New Yorkers “rent burdened.” This note seeks to examine a likely cause of the present problem: zoning and variance systems that limit the ability of private land owners to built housing units. It reimagines the variance as a public interest tool that would give landowners more flexibility in meeting metropolitan housing demand. This new variance would remove zoning restrictions in specific circumstances that comport with an urban area’s policy for greater housing development. Using New York as a case study, this note presents model provisions that take into account the city’s unique infrastructure and expand the possibilities of affordable housing.