Here’s how hard it is to build apartments on Long Island

New map shows challenge of multifamily development

Map Shows Long Island Multifamily Issues in Long Island

Multifamily developers have a new tool to help evaluate where they should try building on Long Island. As you might guess, their options are limited.

A coalition of organizations on Long Island recently published the Long Island Zoning Atlas, an interactive map that shows where certain types of buildings are permitted throughout the area, Newsday reported. The atlas was created by Community Development Long Island, the Rauch Foundation, Long Island Community Foundation and the CUNY Graduate Center.

The organizations compiled data on all of the more than 1,200 zoning districts on Long Island, spanning hundreds of towns, villages and cities. In addition to zoning, the atlas also shows current land use, including districts with multifamily housing that could not be built today.

The map revealed that single-family home development is allowed throughout much of Long Island, but anything more than that is nearly always not. 

Outside of environmentally protected zones, single-family housing is permitted to be built on 89 percent of Long Island’s land area. Most of that allowance is as-of-right, meaning developers don’t need political approval or any special steps.

Two-family homes, however, are only permitted in 8.5 percent of Long Island, both as-of-right or with the benefit of a public hearing. Three-family homes and beyond are only allowed on 3.6 percent of the giant peninsula.

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It’s unclear from the map what percentage of Long Island only allows single-family development. The Real Deal did not immediately hear back from the CUNY Graduate Center.

When considering only Long Island’s 96 incorporated villages, zoning becomes an even bigger issue for multifamily developers. Two-family homes are allowed in a mere 6.7 percent of village areas and three-family or larger homes on just 3.3 percent. A majority of villages only allow single-family housing.

Steven Romalewski, mapping service director at the CUNY Graduate Center for Urban Research, told Newsday that the map can allow housing advocates to show examples of places where multifamily developments exist, but are no longer permitted. That could persuade those localities to allow it again, although resistance to new apartments is widespread in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Heatherwood Luxury Rentals’ director of planning and development added that the map would be a tool for developers “to go where they’re wanted.”

For developers, it’s a visual reminder of how difficult it is to address Long Island’s housing shortage.

Holden Walter-Warner

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