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City Design Competition Seeks to Transform Tiny Odd Lots into Affordable Housing

Six of the 23 selected vacant lots that could soon bring more affordable housing are located in Brownsville, Flatbush and Bed-Stuy.
Brownsville vacant lot, BK Reader
St. Mark?s Avenue and East New York Avenue in Brownsville. Photo: Google Maps

The Department of Housing and Preservation announced on Monday an architectural competition titled Big Ideas for Small Lots to transform to 23 of the city's oddly-sized vacant lots into affordable housing, NY Curbed reports.

The competition, a partnership with the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, aims to address the challenges associated with developing affordable housing on small lots. Six of the lots selected for the transformation are in Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant and Flatbush. 

"With this competition, we're tapping into the creativity and expertise of the design community—the best and the brightest—to spark big ideas for some of the city's smallest and most challenging lots," said HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer.

The two-stage design challenge asks architects to create models for affordable housing on lots ranging from 1,125 square feet to 2,613 square feet. These lots are often a result of zoning oddities or building code quirks that make them undesirable to private developers.

Six of the 23 selected vacant lots that could soon bring more affordable housing are located in Brownsville, Flatbush and Bed-Stuy.
St. Mark's Avenue and East New York Avenue in Brownsville. Image credit: HPD/

The six Brooklyn lots are located at the corner of St. Marks and East New York Avenues in Brownsville; at 2334 Tilden Avenue in Flatbush, and at 406 Nostrand Avenue, 706A Hancock Street and 708 Hancock Street in Bedford Stuyvesant.

New York City owns 5,027 undeveloped parcels across the city; nearly 1,800 of these lots are small properties with less than 1,900 square feet, according to a spokesperson of the Department of Administrative Services.

Design proposals, which can be submitted until March 24, will be evaluated by a panel of nine jurors, who include experts in the fields of architecture, urban design, real estate development and public policy, HPD officials said. Finalists for the first stage will be announced in May, who then will participate in a series of workshops to develop teams for the next phase.

In the second phase, contestants are asked to propose budgets and site plans for their assigned lot, as well as create proposals how their project could be translated to develop housing on the 22 other sites. HPD expects to designate sites for development in November.

The department mostly anticipates plans for two- or three-family homes for buyers who will be selected through the city's affordable housing lottery, though below-market-rate rentals are also being considered. Income limits have not been set yet for the prospective housing.

"With Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC we are leaving no stone unturned in our effort to create more affordable housing opportunities for New Yorkers," said Torres-Springer.

For more information about the competition, visit