From Urban Omnibus:
“Nearly 40% of the new housing created from 1990 to 2005 were illegal apartments. Many of them are in basements or cellars. These units exist because there isn’t enough affordable housing in NYC.” -Seema Agnani, Executive Director, Chhaya Community Development Corporation
No, they exist because owners are greedy and/or mortgages are ridiculously inflated in this city. There is plenty of "affordable" housing here. Of course if all you can afford is to split your rent with 4 other people because you are here illegally and work for less than minimum wage, then perhaps not.
Basement apartments are a legitimate source of affordable housing; the issue is that they need to be brought up to code. If they were, unsafe conditions would be improved, tenants could be guaranteed their rights, and owners could regularize their ability to collect rent and insure the protection of their property. But we’ve found that many elected officials are afraid to touch this issue; they see it as an issue of neighborhood preservation, with a lot of the more established residents feeling that new immigrants are coming in and ruining their communities. But the City is draining all sorts of resources. Judges in the court system are frustrated with the number of complaints, but there is nothing they can do to tackle the issue. The Department of Buildings is tired of having to issue these fines, despite the revenue. It’s also a huge drain on public resources, resulting in overcrowded schools and overstretched social service provision. But if these units and the population that resides in them could be planned for, it could really be a resource for the city. So last year we went about the process of documenting how many of these units actually exist.
Has nothing to do with not wanting immigrants moving in, as most communities are made up of immigrants or their descendants. It has to do with community planning having been done for a certain number of people and then augmenting the maxed out population by half without increases in services (You know - increased sewer, school, electricity and garbage collection services - things that never happen.) "The Department of Buildings is tired of having to issue these fines, despite the revenue." Give me a break. The Department of Buildings could be a gold mine if they weren't told to look the other way on illegal conversions. Let's remember: "Where will all the people living in them go?" was actually Mayor Bloomberg's reply to the leadership of the Queens Civic Congress years ago when they told him that illegal conversions were their number one concern.
The population will never be planned for if Bloomberg's sanctuary city policy remains in effect which basically encourages unchecked immigration and there is little to no consequence for having illegal rental units in one's home.
The majority of these units exist in the outer boroughs, they exist in immigrant communities that have established hubs. Their temples are here; their mosques are here; their community is here. People are willing to live in overcrowded conditions in order to be in these communities. Particularly in Queens, there really has been very little investment in affordable housing developments. If you look at where all of the development has occurred by the non-profit or for-profit sector, it’s pretty shocking when you see how little has been done in this borough. Of course there are political reasons for that, but I also think there’s a perception that everyone in Queens lives in historic single-family homes or nice condos and co-ops. There’s really a need to educate the broader public about the borough itself and what’s going on here. This is where the majority of new immigrants have settled in New York City.
"People are willing to live in overcrowded conditions in order to be in these communities." Bullshit. People live in cellars because they are here illegally, have criminal records or bill collectors after them and this gives them the best shot at not being detected.
"I also think there’s a perception that everyone in Queens lives in historic single-family homes or nice condos and co-ops." More bullshit. The majority of land use in Queens is 2 and 3 family homes. R-4 is the predominant zoning throughout the outer boroughs.
Try selling your bullshit to Brooklyn and see how far you get.