The SoHo Artists Association was loosely formed in 1968 to centralize lobbying efforts to change New York City zoning laws to allow artists to live and work in SoHo loft spaces zoned for manufacturing. At that time, spaces that were vacated by manufacturers were being converted to studios by artists drawn by cheap rents, expansive spaces, and available natural lighting. Many artists also began to occupy their studio spaces, although zoning laws did not permit residency. The group voted to call itself the SoHo Artists Association at the same time they shortened the area designation on a city planning commission map from "South of Houston." The name for the neighborhood stuck and became a model for other neighborhood acronyms in New York City.
The Association acquired its incorporation certificate on June 2, 1970 and held its first "official" meeting a few days later. In addition to negotiating with the city, the SoHo Artists Association built community support and membership through community events and festivals. They also sought financial and foundation support for artists and extended those funds to purchase buildings for artists' residences as well as exhibition and performance spaces.
During negotiations and public hearings, the City placed a moratorium on evictions to allow more time to resolve the situation in a legal manner. In 1971 the Zoning Resolution was amended to permit Joint Live-Work Quarters for Artists. This law is still in effect and, for the most part, only visual artists and their families are permitted to legally live in converted lofts in SoHo.