NY Could Turn Empty Offices Into Housing Under State Senate Bill

NEW YORK -
The lower Manhattan skyline overlooking the Hudson River. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

New York state could purchase struggling office buildings and hotels and convert them to affordable housing for low income New Yorkers and shelters for the homeless or those fleeing a dangerous situation under a bill being considered in the State senate.

The bill was written and sponsored by State Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The bill would mandate affordable housing units, and would only consider purchasing commercial buildings that are for sale due to economic woes. The companies would sell the buildings to the state to convert the property to affordable apartments for people living in temporary shelters and those struggling financially.

The money might come from the coronavirus relief bill or federal programs for distressed properties.

Only hotels with 150 or less rooms would be eligible, which would discount many hotels in Manhattan.

“We have known for decades that there’s a massive affordable housing crunch, so this is something that’s been in need for forever,”  Gianaris told the paper. “What we’re doing now is finding this huge stock of buildings that are in distressed condition right now, so it’s a smart way to tackle multiple problems.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration support the plan, as does the Hotel Trades Council union.

The commercial real estate business in New York City was thriving until the pandemic caused profits to plunge. In Manhattan, the commercial vacancy rate was 13.3% by the end of 2020, the highest in 24 years.

The city’s homeless shelter population was 52,010, less than it has been in recent years.

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smarcus@hamodia.com