In February 2019, CHPC hosted Housing Innovation Lab: Basements to explore how best practices and new technology to enhance light, air quality, and fire safety could improve the safety and habitability of basement apartments.
Streamlining a pathway for the conversion of New York City basements into safe, legal apartments would create new rental units in an affordable housing crisis, provide financial support for low- and moderate-income homeowners, expand housing options for under-served groups, and improve safety and security for the tenants and owners of basement apartments in the informal market. Despite these benefits, the concept of basement apartment conversions remains controversial, largely due to misconceptions around the safety and habitability of the units. Basement apartment skeptics are concerned that proponents want to “loosen regulations” or “legalize” existing substandard conditions. However, basement apartments can and should be safe and habitable.
CHPC conducted research on global best practices and new technology in fire protection, lighting, and ventilation systems that would improve the safety and habitability of basement apartments. On February 7th, 2019, CHPC hosted housing policymakers and practitioners at its inaugural Housing Innovation Lab event to showcase the results of the research. Engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs from across the globe were invited to discuss their ideas and technologies, and to debate with expert jury panels comprised of renowned New York City architects and agency officials.