basement apartments nyc
A pilot program aims to add more affordable housing options by building new basement apartments. Photo: RegulusAlpha/Flickr Creative Commons

It’s no secret that affordable housing in New York City is scarce. Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a new effort he says will add more housing options via new basement apartments.

The mayor recently announced a pilot program to create and renovate apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in East New York, Brooklyn.

City Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal and Inez Barron initially proposed the legislation, backed by de Blasio, to create more apartments in Brooklyn Community District 5.

“The city is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This program will increase the stock of affordable housing in East New York, provide additional income to homeowners, and ensure tenant safety. This administration will continue to utilize every tool we have to tackle affordability head on.”

 

In order to create these new basement apartments, the city pilot program will modify existing Housing Maintenance Code, Fire Code and Construction Code standards, as well as allocate funds to help with the renovations.

The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million into the three year program.

Not every current basement apartment in New York City is legal because they have to meet certain conditions approved by the Department of Buildings, but plenty of New Yorkers still live in illegal basement apartments. These New Yorkers typically do not have a lease, according to the city, and also have limited rights and live in “substandard conditions.”

This pilot program aims to allow housing owners to create safe and legal basement apartments to supplement the city’s strained housing stock.

“In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally,” Espinal said in a statement, “so this will help homeowners by providing an avenue for income, while helping tenants by providing an affordable and safe place to live.”

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