Small Zoning Lots in NYC

by | Last updated Jun 1, 2023 | NYC Zoning

Small Zoning Lots in NYC are residential zoning lots where the area of the lot is less then the minimum required by code or where the width of the property is less then that required by code. If a residential property is a small zoning lot any new development will be restricted to a maximum of 1 or 2 families. A Multi family building will not be allowed as of right on a small zoning lot in New York City.


Small Zoning Lots

Small zoning lots are only an issue for residential developments. If you have a commercial overlay or you are developing a mixed use building, the commercial development can proceed as it normally would. The residential portion can have one or two families as of right. The number of families will be determined by one of two issues. First whether or not the zoning district allows two families and second the Density Factor.


Small Lots in Single Family Zoning Districts

Some Zoning districts only allow single family homes. If that is the case then obviously you can only build a single family home provided you qualify on the Density Factor. The minimum lot size to build a house will be the area that would result with a density factor of 1. this will vary depending on your zoning district.


Small Lots in Two Family or Multifamily Zoning Districts

If you are in a zoning district that allows two families or multi family buildings then you can build up to two families on a small zoning lot, as of right. Multi family will not be allowed without a variance in a multi family Residential Zoning District. Variances are special authorization to develop a property in a manner that is not as of right. A variance is not easy to get.


Density Factor Calculations

Density Factor is a zoning formula that determines how many residential units you can develop on a property.


How to Develop a Small Zoning Lot in NYC

  • Build 1 or 2 Families
  • Merge Zoning Lots
  • Enlarge The Lot
  • Get A Variance
  • Develop Mixed Use or Non Residential


Build 1 or 2 Family Homes on a Small Zoning Lot

When developing your small zoning lot the easiest thing to do is to build a 1 or 2 family home. We did a project where the client had a small zoning lot in R6 Zoning. We designed a townhouse 4 stories with 2 duplex units. It was a 2 family 4 story house. The first 2 stories were one family and the top 2 stories were another family. .


Merge Zoning Lots

You can make an air rights deal with your neighbors and merge the zoning lots. This could bring you over the minimum requirements even though your property doesn’t physically change. This is done through a zoning lot merger. If the neighbor has a small zoning lot it could benefit them too.


Enlarge The Lot

You can purchase your neighbors lot or a portion of their property enough to bring you over the limit. You need to make sure you do not leave their lot with less then the minimum required.


Get a Variance

Getting an NYC Zoning variance is complicated but it is possible. This is a very time consuming process to receive special approvals to build something that is not “as of right.” Nobody can guarantee you that the variance will actually be approved.


Develop Mixed Use or Non residential

If you have a commercial overlay you may consider building a commercial space or a mixed use building with 1 or 2 family residential and commercial below. Also you can do a community facility or mixed use community facility with 1 or 2 family residential.


Thank You for reading our post on Small Zoning Lots in NYC.

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Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

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.