Basement Living

The Story

Tens of thousands of basements are rented illegally around New York City; Mayor de Blasio’s new budget proposes a pilot program that would bring these basement apartments up to code in order to make them legal dwellings. De Blasio’s proposal is a step in the right direction but risks undermining housing gains with its condition that the renovated units remain “affordable.” That means that owners may not get the rents they need for upkeep and maintenance and may balk at participating in the program. The city’s housing market needs less regulation, not more.

The Facts You Need to Know

  1. Opportunity: The city has more than 100,000 informal “accessory units” that often require minimal fixes to make them safe to live in. Read more.

  2. Income: Legalizing basement apartments will give a capital boost to their owners, typically working-class residents of single or two-family homes. Read more.

  3. Crisis: Though its rental market is the most regulated in the country, New York City seems always to be mired in a housing crisis. Read more.

“Talk to folks who are renting a basement apartment illegally – the reason is it’s their only means of staying in the city.”

William Spisak, Chhaya Community Development Corporation director of programs

Twitter Take

The Past is Present

The Frozen Neighborhood By Howard Husock (Autumn 2000)

”By assuming that government knows best what to do with the property, this course prevents us from ever learning what new and creative uses the market might bring to it.”

And in other news...

“The penalty imposed by the Federal Highway Administration is its strongest move yet to try to force the removal of the blue-and-white highway signs, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration spent $8.1 million installing in recent years despite being ordered not to in 2013.”