Most municipalities use the Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) metric to restrict development within their communities. F.A.R. is calculated by dividing the total floor area of a building by the area of the site it is built upon. In achieving planners’ and neighbors’ questionable objective of “preserving the character” of their communities, F.A.R. is a somewhat arbitrary metric that does little to effectively regulate “character”.
In what I see as a great example of the silliness of FAR limits, a recent development in Brooklyn used an interesting, yet not unusual, method to build more space than allowed by zoning laws: mezzanine floors. From Curbed NY:
On the blueprints as "storage space" and not calculated into the building’s overall floor-to-area ratio, the zoning-busting half-floors can be converted to living space after the fact, as long as it’s kept reasonably hush-hush—though the broker in this case eagerly told the gadfly, "Those storage spaces can be converted into living spaces after the closing." Maybe a bump on the head is to blame?
Photos from original source, Pardon Me For Asking:
The lengths developers are willing to go to subvert zoning, goes to show the extent that restrictions harm the marketplace. Unfortunately, methods like this aren’t effective against more affordability-destroying restrictions such as limits on the number of units allowed on a piece of land.