Basement Apartment Legalization

Exploring ways to make it feasible for more homeowners to rent out a safe and lawful apartment in the basement of their homes.

At a time when new housing is urgently needed, one of simplest ways that New York City can Make Room – especially for our newest populations – is to allow and encourage homeowners to turn their basements into legal and safe apartments. Renting illegal spaces has become common in many areas of the city, especially in neighborhoods with large concentrations of low and moderate income immigrant communities. The widespread unregulated market offers no legal security to tenants, puts tenant, owners, and firefighters in physical danger, and cannot be eradicated through enforcement alone. A program to create safe and legal basement apartments would protect tenants and owners who are currently operating illegally and informally and add to the stock of basic attainable housing thus creating new safe options for our households.

However, there are three major barriers that have made it nearly impossible for landlords/owners to legalize basement apartments today: 1)  the laws and codes that relate to making a basement apartment safe and legal are complicated and extensive 2) the process is protracted and 3) the costs are prohibitively high. As a result, problem-solving on the topic of illegal basements often gets stuck.

Our goal for this project is to provide some new strategies that could improve fire safety in residential buildings; set up a fresh foundation for the discussion about the legalization of basement apartments; and to provide technical advice to the administration to guide them through this multi-faceted and thorny endeavor.

Featured Map
Hidden Housing Interactive Map

Explore our interactive map to get a closer look at the distribution of viable basement apartments in NYC.

Events ×+

Making Room: Housing for a Changing America

Making Room: Housing for a Changing America is a new, exciting exhibition showcasing design solutions that help meet the needs of the 21st-century household. The exhibition represents and illustrates how unprecedented shifts in demographics and lifestyles have transformed the idea of the household.

All About Basements! Study Launch

Join the Citizens Housing and Planning Council on Thursday February 16th for third installment of our Beds Books & Basements civic dialogue series.  CHPC and featured guest, Mary-Anne Bedard, will discuss the need for flexible housing typologies in our cities and consider opportunities and challenges that each city faces in developing one such type—basement apartment conversions or ‘secondary suites.’

Publications ×+

Hidden Housing: Basement Apartments

At a time when new housing is urgently needed, this new CHPC study found that there are between 10,000 and 38,000 potential apartments that could be brought into safe and legal use in New York City without even changing the Zoning Resolution.

Related Insights
February 1, 2017 - by CHPC
January 8, 2015 - by CHPC
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