|Hilarious illustration by the Real Deal|
Across the city, tens of thousands of people live in illegal basement apartments. The de Blasio administration aims to turn these units into legal affordable housing, but it’s not clear how the city will address the challenges associated with bringing these units up to code.
Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a citywide legalization initiative that would build on a pilot program launched in East New York last year. The mayor projects that it will add 10,000 affordable units over the next decade.
However, financial and logistical obstacles abound, including high costs, engineering issues, a lack of political will to shutter illegal apartments, and persuading homeowners to let the city randomly choose their tenants.
Experts say upgrading a basement or cellar unit can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The city’s building code requires, among other things, ceiling heights of at least eight feet, windows in every bedroom and many other rooms, a sprinkler system and at least one exit in basement apartments and two in cellars.
(Basements are partly below curb level but have at least half of their height above it. Cellars are more than half below curb level.)
“This idea has been kicked around for a while, but there’s no actual proposal of how it’s going to work or how it’s going to be safe,” said Stuart Saft, leader of Holland & Knight’s real estate group. “Even if money was no object, even if the city came along and said ‘we’ll pay for it,’ you still have the logistical problem of doing it.”
Though the mayor hasn’t released specifics on his plan, he has indicated that the city will fund low-interest loans for homeowners to bring below-ground units up to code. Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the projects would be subject to regulatory agreements that lay out income restrictions in the same manner as other city-financed projects.
Former city planner Eric Kober, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, was skeptical that subsidized loans would be enough to incentivize landlords to legalize already-occupied units.
“You could raise the fines and penalties, but then you have to be willing to throw people out on the street,” Kober said, referring to tenants in illegal apartments. “And that raises a whole other set of issues about what happens to that household.”
You have to admit giving everyone the chance to be a slumlord or opium den proprietor is a bold move which will undoubtedly move the spotlight off his many crimes and failings as a mayor
In theory, this would be a great idea. The fact remains that tens of thousands of illegal basements/cellars are rent. The costs of owning skyrocketed and is only getting worse. The real estate markets demand top dollar which in turn raises rents to pay the new high costs mortgages. But the city always makes things more difficult to be able to profit from any program they develop. So no one is going to convert. What will be done going forward is all new construction will build accordingly to accommodate the law when and if it ever comes to fruition.
If you want legalized basement apartments then I think those owners should pay more taxes on their houses. So I'm all for it, they will soon learn the error of their ways if you charged them taxes for a multi family dwelling
When diblasio says he will create more housing,we a thinking people understand the word"create"to mean build new structures for people to inhabit. In the game of politics "create"means "on paper". So if thousands of illegal apartments are suddenly made legal, then the beuracocrats have "created" new housing. Hey mr diblasio, dont bullshit the bullshitter!
"persuading homeowners to let the city randomly choose their tenants."
Oh? That should be a deal breaker for any homeowner with the tiniest bit of common sense. This would be intended to house the homeless, or the near-homeless section 8 people. These are not tenants you want living directly below you in your own home! Too funny!
This infuriates me on so many levels...
First, the city wants a homeowner to do major home renovation, and only offers “low-interest loans” as funding-?!?
Two: I guarantee that no matter how good the renovation work is, and how much it aligns with the city’s specifications, DOB will never leave the property alone— tickets for any wild imaginary infraction will pop up.
Three: consider the amount of disruption such a project will be, what with hiring an architect, a contractor, vetting his or licenses/credentials, and on top of that, making arrangements with one’s employer to be home to let in the workers. It would be a huge project, one that would take months at least. I can’t work from home or get that much time off, and I certainly do not want to leave my home open to strangers.
BTW, why not lead by example, Bill? I assume the DiBlasios are renovating the basements of their Park Slope properties, at their own expense, and offering them to low-income tenants. Right, right??
I knew someone who told us in 1970 he build a legal basement apartment. Yet in 2005, the third subsequent owner had to dismantle it. How are such records kept?
Your building should follow the code in force
when it was built. 2008, 1968, 1938.
Most inspectors don't know the difference.
Fight them in court, don't pay a fine.
Because if you win, they will not return your fines.
DOB inspectors have deals with contractors. Danny Halloran outed them on that.
They turn in poor old ladies, and show up to do the remedy.
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