Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Regional Plan Association

RPA: Make New York More Affordable By Toppling Barriers to Housing Near Regional Rail

RPA found that 20 percent of regional rail stations outside New York City allow single-family homes to the exclusion of any other housing type. Map: RPA

Suburban governments can help relieve the New York region's housing crunch by allowing more compact development near regional rail stops, according to a report released today by the Regional Plan Association [PDF].

While some suburbs have already taken steps to develop areas around rail stations into walkable neighborhoods, local zoning restricts housing and commercial development near transit in much of the region. The land near these rail stations could be used to connect more people to jobs and support housing for more than 600,000 people, says RPA.

RPA surveyed all 328 regional rail stations serving NYC in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Of those, 264 have existing sewage infrastructure to support more intensive development. But construction of multi-family housing four stories or higher is only allowed at 114 stations.

RPA found that at 20 percent of regional rail stations outside New York City only single-family homes are allowed, to the exclusion of all other housing types.

The jurisdictions that are more hostile to transit-oriented development tend to be whiter and wealthier than those that have fewer restrictions. Nassau County takes the cake for stations engulfed by car-centric zoning, with 16 stations in towns where regulations don't allow multi-family housing.

The land near these stations is going to waste on parking lots and car-centric sprawl. "These 16 stations in Nassau County had a median of 579,000 jobs accessible by transit within a 60 minute commute – almost five times the regional median of 121,000," the report says.

Low density zoning near transit means higher rents and more congestion in Nassau County. Image: RPA
Low density zoning near transit means higher rents and more congestion. Image: RPA
Low density zoning near transit means higher rents and more congestion in Nassau County. Image: RPA

It will take local zoning reforms to allow for walkable, mixed-use development near the region's rail stations. State governments also have a role to play, says RPA, by making zoning reform a prerequisite for state assistance with infrastructure near stations, and requiring below-market housing in development near transit.

In towns with rail stations, local transit networks also need upgrades to provide "reliable and affordable" service, according to RPA.

"Strategies in this report rely on a commuter rail network and connecting local transit networks that are safe, well-managed, inexpensive, and adequately funded, so transit remains an attractive option," the report says.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Wednesday’s Headlines: Citi Bike By the Numbers Edition

Haters of Citi Bike are really going to detest the new website. Plus other news.

July 17, 2024

Bedford Ave. Protected Bike Lane Would Benefit Residents, Businesses: Data

A new report debunks the common myth that street safety projects aren't built for the benefit of people who live in a given neighborhood.

July 16, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: Rajkumar’s Citywide Bid Edition

The potential candidate for city comptroller cares more about "quality of life" than transportation, she says. Plus more news.

July 16, 2024

Report: The 3 Deadliest Districts for Pedestrians are Represented by Republicans

According to Smart Growth America, Suffolk County and the southwestern part of Nassau County are the worst places to be a pedestrian in the state.

July 16, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: Who’s a Good Boy Edition

Too many of our four-legged family members are being killed by car drivers. Plus other news.

July 15, 2024
See all posts