R8 Zoning NYC

R8 Zoning NYC

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2018)

R8 Zoning in NYC is considered a “high density” residential zoning district. R8 Zoning is found commonly 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. We will not be going into the contextual districts see list below.


R8 Zoning Districts

Basic R8 District:

  • R8

R8 Contextual Districts

Commercial Zones with R8 Residential Equivalent 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. 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.

Number Of StoriesOpen Space ratioFloor Area Ratio
Over 21 Stories11.9 + .3 per story over 21HF FAR Formula


Quality Housing Program for R8 Zones

I tend to recommend the Quality Housing Program over Height Factor Zoning. 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 typically will result in a larger building of a higher quality. There are more zoning floor area deductions in quality housing that would give you a boost to your total building size.

Typically I recommend using the Quality Housing Program regulations. Below you will see a general zoning analysis example of an R8 Zoning building for Quality Housing Program rules.



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.



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 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 zoning penalties if you choose not to provide it. And zoning bonuses if you do.


R8 Zoning Regulations For Quality Housing

Lot Size:

Minimum Lot width =18 Feet

Minimum Lot Area = 1,700 Sq Ft

Lot Coverage:

Corner Lot = 80%

Interior or Through Lot = 70%

Floor Area Ratio (FAR):

Manhattan Core: = 6.02

Everywhere Else:

Narrow street  = 6.02

Wide street = 7.2

Density Factor

680 – This is used to calculate how many apartments you can have. The total residential floor area is divided by this factor to get the maximum allowable number of dwelling units.

Building Base Height: This indicates a setback is required at these heights

Manhattan Core: = 60 Minimum / 80 Maximum

Everywhere Else:

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

Everywhere Else:

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)

So 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 the actual building will be a little bigger than that.

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. In this apartment building we have 36,000 zoning square feet. We then take the zoning Area and divide by the Density factor.

Number Of Apartments = Zoning Floor Area ÷ Density Factor

Number Of apartments = 36,000 ÷ 680

Number Of Apartments = 52.94 we can round up in this case

Maximum Number Of apartments = 53

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.


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 Fontan Architecture. We will be happy to help. You can learn more about our Zoning Analysis Services or Multi Family Architecture Services.


New York Architects, Jorge Fontan

Author Jorge Fontan AIA

This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.

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