June 6, 2023
NYC borough presidents want Albany lawmakers to ease rules allowing conversion of commercial space to housing

NYC borough presidents want Albany lawmakers to ease rules allowing conversion of commercial space to housing

ALBANY — All five borough presidents in New York City are calling on state lawmakers to make it easier to convert commercial buildings to residential use as a way to address the city’s housing crisis.

The quintet of local officials want the Legislature to include changes in the state budget allowing vacant or unused commercial office space to be turned into apartments in addition to tax incentives to encourage the inclusion of affordable units.

“We are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis that will only worsen without legislation that creates new and innovative ideas for housing production,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, a Democrat.

“Providing housing flexibility by allowing for the conversion of underutilized commercial real estate will create thousands of new units of affordable, safe, and quality housing to combat rising homelessness in our city,” Gibson said.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson

The unified call from Gibson and her fellow BPs comes as Gov. Hochul pushes for a complete redesign of how the state approaches housing and development. Mayor Adams has also called for overhauling empty offices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several business districts in the city, including parts of Midtown Manhattan, have struggled to recover from the crisis amid the shift to remote work.

The borough presidents are backing the 5 Borough Housing Movement, a coalition calling on lawmakers to remove restrictions that limit conversions.

Buildings, some of them nearly empty, in lower Manhattan.

Among the group’s priorities are allowing existing commercial buildings across the city, especially in Manhattan below 96th St., to convert to residential use.

“Across Manhattan, we are seeing prices increase and supply dwindle, forcing New York families out of their homes and communities,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, a Democrat. “Converting some commercial buildings for residential use could increase the supply of affordable housing and seriously help combat this housing crisis.”

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, both Democrats, and Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, a Republican, all joined in backing the plan.

Front page of the New York Daily News for Dec. 15, 2022: Rescue plan- Gov and mayor offer blueprint in wake of COVID to address empty offices, build 800k homes.

The push comes after Adams and top city planning officials released details about their efforts to convert underused office space into apartments in the city’s bustling business districts, including a plan that would allow for the rezoning of millions of square feet of space in office buildings.

A City Planning Department study detailing the mayor’s plan shows that zoning changes would be needed to permit conversions in buildings built prior to 1991.

Currently, such office-to-residential conversions are only allowed in Financial District buildings built in 1977 or before, and buildings in other city business districts constructed prior to 1962.

Hochul’s budget blueprint, released early last month, included much of what Adams and the city officials have called for as far as incentives and rezoning. The governor and the Democrat-led Legislature are currently negotiating the state spending plan ahead of the April 1 fiscal deadline.

The governor’s plan would grant developers converting offices into apartments with at least 20% affordable units and a property tax break for 19 years.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference in New York City on November 22, 2022.

Projects would receive a full property-tax exemption during the construction period and buildings south of 96th St. in Manhattan would get a 50% exemption for 15 years while properties outside that area receive a 35% exemption for the same period.

The abatement could face pushback from progressive Dems in the Legislature who have vocally opposed giving tax breaks to large developers.

That could put a damper on Hochul’s plans to build 800,000 new residential units in the state over the next decade by limiting commercial conversions.

“We have to be all hands on deck as we seek to create safe, dignified, and stable housing for all who call our city home,” Reynoso said.

“It’s unnecessary for all this commercial space to sit empty and unused when, by working together and thinking creatively, we can convert these commercial buildings into hundreds and hundreds of homes for people and families who need them.”

Source link