NYC Proposes Allowing Basement Housing Units

Legislation that could increase the amount of housing units was proposed in the New York City Council on Thursday, and it is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The bill would change the zoning laws to allow for the building of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes. To see if it works, the city would set up a three-year pilot program in East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood.

The city’s codes for housing maintenance, fire and construction would have to be modified for the program to come into existence.

“This program will increase the stock of affordable housing in East New York, provide additional income to homeowners, and ensure tenant safety,” de Blasio said. “This administration will continue to utilize every tool we have to tackle affordability head on.”

The city would also issue through an outside organization low-interest loans to fund the first renovations. However, qualified landlords must have an income at or below 165 percent of the neighborhood’s median income, and occupy the home as their primary residence.

While many landlords currently convert their basements into livable apartments, the mayor acknowledged, tenants typically have no lease, limited rights, and live in substandard conditions. The bill would set standards for minimum ceiling heights and window sizes.