City Hall should build new housing on the Near Eastside, and a lot of that new housing should be rowhomes. Rowhomes combine the benefits of both single-family and multi-family housing and they are a perfect housing solution for the growing Near Eastside.
Over the past few years, private for-profit developers operating on the Near Eastside have been building one basic kind of housing: the midrise apartment block. These buildings can fit a lot of homes in a neighborhood, and all those people help support more local businesses and better public services.
In the past couple of years, City Hall’s Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative has built a very different kind of housing in other City neighborhoods: single-family houses with large front, side, and backyards. These buildings give people a little bit of private outdoor space, they encourage a sense of ownership of the block, and they provide people with the opportunity to own their own home.
Rowhomes—houses on narrow lots that share sidewalls with neighboring houses—combine all these benefits. Like large apartment buildings, they can house lots of people and support vibrant growing neighborhoods. Like detached single-family homes, they provide small yards and opportunities for home ownership.
To see how rowhomes would help bring these benefits to the Near Eastside, just look at the block bounded by Water, Washington, Almond, and McBride Streets. It’s currently almost completely covered by a tangle of two elevated highways, but the I81 project will remove that interchange and transfer the land back to the community. That block could easily fit 80 rowhomes, so there would be room for 80 families to own a home on a single block of this high-opportunity neighborhood.
Of course, it’s not currently legal to build rowhomes in Syracuse. The City’s antiquated zoning code prohibits them, and ReZone would still maintain that ban by requiring what it calls “attached single-family” houses to sit on overly large lots that rob rowhomes of some of their chief benefits. Before City Hall adopts the new zoning ordinance, it should amend ReZone to allow rowhomes to be built on lots as narrow as 15’ wide and as small as 750 square feet. These standards would simply allow City Hall to build rowhomes similar to those that already exist in other Syracuse neighborhoods.
Rowhomes hit a housing sweet spot: they make room for lots of people to live in a neighborhood, and they also provide families with private yards and the opportunity to own a home. Syracuse could use more rowhomes, and City Hall should build them on the Near Eastside.