Many of New York City’s basement apartments exist within the gray market, due to the financial and regulatory barriers faced by homeowners wishing to undertake a conversion. Keeping these housing arrangements informal jeopardizes the safety and security of both tenants and homeowners, empowering neither with leasehold rights, and allows for unsafe living conditions. Streamlining a pathway for the conversion of basements into safe, legal apartments would make these arrangements safer and more stable for homeowners and tenants, and add urgently needed housing supply during  a health, economic, and housing crisis.

Regulatory innovation may be the most powerful tool that policymakers have to create housing as we continue to face a global pandemic that has decimated government budgets.

Citizens Housing & Planning Council is excited to release our latest brief listing regulatory actions that can make basement apartment conversions safer, easier, and more affordable.

Regulatory reform recommendations for basement apartment conversions:

Allow cellar occupancy

Create a DOB point of contact

Permit 7′-0″ ceiling height

Issue a partial certificate of occupancy

Regulate glazed area in aggregate rather than by window

Waive parking requirements for subgrade units

Exclude cellars from FAR when converted into a dwelling unit

Consider a two-family home with a subgrade unit as a private dwelling instead of a multiple dwelling

Exempt new multiple dwellings from adequate adjacent space requirement

Abate property taxes to offset tax increase due to conversion

Expand non-metallic piping options for sprinkler systems

Embrace water mist sprinkler systems for residential applications

Create an amnesty program for work that had been previously done on a subgrade unit without a permit

Learn more about CHPC’s related work

Basement Apartment Conversions

CHPC has many projects focused on supporting the conversion of basement apartments in NYC.

Read More

The Final Countdown

Five housing policy strategies to build a more equitable New York City and to end the mayoral term with progress & results. 

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Many thanks to our generous sponsors:

Sponsor New York Community Trust
Sponsor JP Morgan Chase