New York Citys Department of Buildings issues more than 4,400 violations a year for illegally converted basements, cellars and attics that cannot be occupied because of health and safety hazards, like poor ventilation or a lack of multiple exits.
But with the scarcity of affordable housing in the city and with many New Yorkers already living in makeshift apartments, some housing advocates are calling for a new approach. They want the city to legalize at least some of these units by waiving certain laws, as the Bloomberg administration did last year to test so-called micro-units. Smaller than the current 450-square-foot minimum for studios, such micro-units are planned for a Manhattan building scheduled to open in 2015 in a pilot project.
But advocates of legalization say the point is to deal with an existing problem and allow better city planning. We want a path to legalization, said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the research group Citizens Housing and Planning Counciland a former city housing commissioner. Not every unit should be legalized, but there are some that could.
For owners and tenants, the advantage is not having their lives upended.
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