Sandy displaced thousands from illegal dwellings

Advocates are pushing for the legalization of basement apartments
Advocates are pushing for the legalization of basement apartments

Thousands of the city’s poor were dislodged by Hurricane Sandy from improvised living spaces and basement apartments that housing advocates say are illegal but essential accommodations in New York City.

Around 63,000 residential units were damaged during the storm, according to city estimates, and housing advocates said that that number includes thousands of illegal apartments. Many of the residents of these illegal units remain homeless, as landlords have been hard-pressed to make repairs to these below-market units.

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“It’s true that a lot of the units were maybe illegal, almost definitely substandard,” Judith Goldiner, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not going to tell you they were great housing, but on the other hand they were affordable housing to a lot of low-income people.”

To be sure, not all basement apartments are illegal. There are situations in which they can be rented out – if they are more than half above ground, have ceilings at least seven feet high and meet other city regulations, according to the Journal. Advocates are pushing to get more basement apartments legalized, and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has also voiced his support for the plan. [WSJ]Hiten Samtani