Could legalizing basement apartments be the answer to NYC’s housing crisis?

City is under pressure to prepare for growing population

Basement apartments in NYC
Basement apartments in NYC

With New York City’s population on track to reach 9 million over the next two decades, housing experts are pushing the city to change housing laws to free up apartments.

Despite the de Blasio administration’s efforts to address the city’s worsening housing crisis, experts told a panel Tuesday there are cheaper and more effective ways to fix the problem, Crain’s reported. Making basement apartments legal and moving tenants to more appropriately sized places are some of the possible solutions suggested.

Jerilyn Perine, the head of the nonprofit Citizens Housing and Planning Council and the former commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, told the panel that between 50,000 to 100,000 basement apartments could enter the marketplace if they were made legal. The legalization of these types of places was mentioned in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan in 2014, but the idea took a backseat to other policies, according to the website.

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The panelists also called for a greater focus on the creation of smaller apartments. About one-third of all houses in New York City are home to a single occupant, but studios account for only 7 percent of the city’s dwellings, the website reported. Many of the city’s rent-regulated units are occupied by tenants who could live in smaller units, but don’t want to give up subsidized housing and move.

“One person could be occupying a two- or three-bedroom [because] they can’t afford to move out,” said Jeffrey Levine, head of Douglaston Development.

The city says that nearly 53,000 low-income apartments that have become available since de Blasio took office. The mayor’s signature affordable housing policy — Mandatory Inclusionary Housing — has experienced ongoing challenges as some local officials and community groups oppose projects. [Crain’s]Miriam Hall