Queens overrun with illegal basement apartments

November 23, 2013 04:00PM

 New York City’s chronic housing shortage has led to a vast network of illegal basement homes in the Ozone Park section of Queens and beyond. And while some condemn the potentially hazardous practice, others are calling for legalization of basement units as a means to increase housing inventory.

Currently, homeowners cannot rent out units that are more than one-half their height below curb level. However, the practice of renting out subterranean apartments has become so rampant that it is hard to identify homes without basement units in some Queens neighborhoods, according to Chhaya Community Development, which works with South Asian families in Queens.

Most of these basement units are renting for around $900 a month to individuals and families that have been priced out of the more traditional city dwellings. And the demand for these cheap units has driven real estate agents to routinely market basement apartments off the books, according to Staten Island Advance.

But rather than condemn the practice, Seema Agnani, Chhaya’s executive director argues: “Anything that increases supply is really good and anything that allows homeowners to make better use of the housing that they own themselves, for which they find willing tenants, as long as it’s safe, really should be encouraged.” [Staten Island Advance]Christopher Cameron