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.

Read the full article in New York Times.