R8 Zoning in NYC is a “high density” residential zoning district. R8 Zoning is mostly in the Manhattan and the Bronx as well in parts of Brooklyn. There are also commercial districts that have an equivalent Residential Zone of R8.
This article will focus on the basics of R8 Zoning district regulations, but we will not be going into the contextual districts see list below.
R8 Zoning Districts
Basic R8 District:
R8 Contextual Districts
Commercial Zones with R8 Residential Equivalent Zoning
WHAT IS R8 ZONING?
R8 Zoning is considered “high density” residential zoning. It typically has multifamily buildings that are often 8 to 10 stories, but can be higher. In an R8 zone you have 2 options for zoning regulations you can use Height Factor Zoning or Quality Housing Program.
Height Factor for R8 Zones
Height factor is one set of zoning regulations that promotes building taller skinnier buildings. In NYC height factor does not apply in “contextual districts.” There are proportional requirements governing the height and size of the building. The taller the building gets the less area it can cover on the site, basically the taller it gets the skinnier it needs to be with more open space on the property.
R8 Height Factor Example:
An 8 story building in an R8 Zone would have a Floor Area Ratio of 4.88 If you went to 17 stories you would be able to use the maximum Floor Area Ratio of 6.02. Although 6.02 is the maximum FAR for R8 Height Factor it does not apply to all heights, height factor FAR changes based on the number of stories provided.
|Number Of Stories
|Open Space ratio
|Floor Area Ratio
|Over 21 Stories
|11.9 + .3 per story over 21
|HF FAR Formula
Quality Housing Program for R8 Zones
The Quality Housing Program promotes shorter wider buildings that are typically larger in square footage. The Quality Housing Program is not to be confused with the Inclusionary Housing Program for affordable housing. The quality housing program is just another set of optional zoning regulations and has nothing to do with low income or affordable housing. The Quality Housing Program may result in a larger building of a higher quality, but shorter in height and stories. There are more zoning floor area deductions in quality housing that would give you a boost to your total building size.
R8 ZONING COMMUNITY FACILITY
R8 Zoning is a residential zone but Community Facility uses are allowed in all R8 zones. In the instance of a community facility the zoning calculations would be different. One can also build a mixed use building with both community facility and residential use.
R8 ZONING COMMERCIAL OVERLAY
Sometimes residential districts have commercial overlays. This means the zone is primarily residential but commercial use is allowed instead or you can have both as a mixed use building. Here is a link to an article we wrote on Commercial Overlays.
R8 Inclusionary Housing Program
Always check if your property is subject to the requirements of the Inclusionary Housing Program. These are districts that have either optional and sometimes mandatory requirements for low income housing. Typically in these areas you provide 20% of your floor area for affordable units. There can be a zoning bonus if you include it but penalties if you choose not to provide it.
R8 Zoning Regulations For Quality Housing
Minimum Lot width =18 Feet
Minimum Lot Area = 1,700 Sq Ft
Corner Lot = 80%
Interior or Through Lot = 70%
Floor Area Ratio (FAR):
Manhattan Core: = 6.02
Narrow street = 6.02
Wide street = 7.2
Building Base Height: This indicates a setback is required at these heights
Manhattan Core: = 60 Minimum / 80 Maximum
Narrow street = 60 Minimum / 80 Maximum
Wide street = 60 Minimum / 85 Maximum
Overall Building Height: This is the actual building height
Manhattan Core: = 105 feet
Narrow street = 105 feet
Wide street = 120 feet
R8 Zones are subject to “Sliver Law” zoning restrictions for properties less than 45 feet wide. The sliver law is an additional restriction on the height of the building and supersedes the typical building height requirements.
Corner Lot: No Yards Required
Interior Lot = 30 foot minimum rear yard required
R8 Zoning Example
Here is an example analysis. Be aware that zoning is complicated and I am only addressing the basics here. I assure you there are many additional issues and variations to consider beyond this example.
R8 Zoning Example Lot
Lets assume we have a 50 foot wide and 100 foot deep property in an R8 Zoning District in the Bronx on an interior lot and lets say it is on a wide street.
Building Foot Print:
First lets start with Lot Coverage and Yards. We know we will need a minimum rear yard of 30 feet. That tells us we have 50 x 70 to build on, and we can cover 70% of the property. this works out well with a 3,500 sq ft area we can build on.
Zoning Floor Area/ Floor Area Ratio (FAR)
The floor area ratio on a wide street outside the Manhattan Core is 7.2. The FAR is a ratio that determines how many square feet you can build on the property. You simply take the property size and multiply it by the FAR.
In this example we have:
FAR of 7.2
Lot Size of 50 feet x 100 feet.
Zoning Floor Area = Lot Area X FAR
Lot Area = 50 x 100
Lot Area = 5,000 sq ft
FAR = 7.2
Zoning Floor Area = 5,000 sq ft x 7.2
Zoning Floor Area = 36,000 sq ft
So we can build a 36,000 sq ft building. This is the zoning square footage.
We said our building foot print would be 50 x 70. Or 3,500 per floor.
This will give us an 11 story building. Because the maximum base height is 85 feet we will at minimum need a setback for the 9th floor and above.
How many apartments can we build on our R8 lot?
Zoning regulates the maximum number of residential units you can put in a building.
R8 Zoning Example Conclusion
In this example we are proposing to build a 36,000 sq ft building. The apartment building will be 11 stories tall and have a setback at least on the top 3 floors. The Building will have a foot print of 50 x 70. It will have a maximum of 53 apartments but can have less as well.
R8 Zoning in NYC
As an architect I study Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to the R8 Zoning in NYC. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.
Thank You for reading our Blog Post on R8 Zoning in NYC.
I hope this was helpful. If you want to discuss a specific project with an architect please feel free to contact us directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.