Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Illegal conversions also rampant outside NYC
A Suffolk County woman's death in a fire over the weekend marked the second time this month that a fire in an illegally converted garage apartment claimed lives.
Dori Costa, 46, was killed in a Sunday's fire inside a converted Islip garage, according to Suffolk county police. The cause was believed to be accidental, and the apartment where the single mother lived and died was illegal, according to Islip town officials.
"I know she was in between jobs and trying to provide for her kids," said neighbor Mike Curry. "It's a tragedy."
Gary Munsch, 54 and his wife, Toni, 51, were killed in a March 17 fire at their garage apartment in Massapequa.
According to housing experts, both tragedies can be linked to Long Island's lack of affordable rental apartments.
"There's thousands of illegal apartments on Long Island," said Peter Elkowitz. the CEO of the non-profit Long Island Housing Help.
Long Island has long had a shortage of affordable rentals, Elkowitz said. And more are seeking cheap places to live, as foreclosure rates rise in the area.
In addition, said Elkowitz, Long Island's rising property taxes continue to force homeowners to rent out garages or basements as a way to reduce their costs.
Okay, this may be part of it, but the biggest reason for illegal rentals is greed. People buy homes they wouldn't be able to afford if not for the illegal rentals and many unscrupulous realtors advertise the fact that you can illegally convert the home in order to make a sale. It also seems that when tragedy strikes, rarely does the homeowner live on premises; these are generally investment properties. You can make more off a property by illegally subdividing it and renting out the multiple units at a cheaper price. Throw in rental income from parking spaces - and it's all tax free! A renter also saves money by renting a cheaper illegal unit. But they could also share a legal apartment with roommates and probably pay about the same.
You want to see illegal apartments disappear? Ramp up the enforcement, stand firm against legalizing out of compliance units and then follow it up with IRS and state tax penalties. Enough with the excuses already.