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Founder of Hill West Architects predicts COVID’s lasting effects on NY’s zoning laws

Georgina Johnston
12 Oct 2020

Drawing on more than 30 years of experience, zoning expert David West gives his predictions on how zoning laws will change as a result of COVID-19’s effect on almost every aspect of real estate

  • Outer-borough development: More development away from central business districts (Manhattan), including more multi-use buildings

With a growing trend towards increased residential development further away from Central Business Districts like Manhattan, primarily along transit corridors, I expect this trend to only increase with a new emphasis on mixed-use development that is less dependent on transit or proximity to a CBD. This will lead to the creation of "micro-hubs” where work, living and commerce converge. Prior to COVID, vast areas of cities were limited to low density single- and two-family housing, generally far from workplaces. We should start to see new zoning that will encourage other housing types further from the city center, mixing residential with commercial.

  • Live/work development: Integration of residential and office space in the same building

Current zoning generally prohibits those developments that integrate residential and office space. This will break down after the pandemic as people look to minimise their commute times on public transportation. Incentives should be created to encourage workspaces within apartments and multiple dwellings.

  • Closer to nature: Increased focus on proximity to open spaces, shorelines and nature

Housing’s proximity to open spaces, shorelines and nature will become more important. This may begin to override the current trend that encourages new housing in inner cities and industrial areas.

  • Larger apartment units: Nixing shared amenity spaces in favor or larger apartments for home offices, flex spaces or outdoor space

Shared amenity spaces within apartment buildings may decrease in size and importance in order to make room for private workspaces within the home and personal amenities such as terraces. 

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