New York City’s building, housing, and zoning regulations compound together to create a complex web of requirements that must be navigated in order to create a legal rental apartment. This is an extremely complicated and costly process to get through for any unit – and it is even more difficult to do in a subterranean space. The complexity, opacity, and cost of the requirements go a long way in holding back the 10,000-38,000 homeowners that could convert their basements into apartments from doing so.

CHPC completed a rigorous review of the codes and laws that pertain to basement conversions for one-family homes, itemized those regulations, and assigned each a status based on compliance difficulty. These findings were distilled and compiled into then distilled and compiled into the Regulatory Checklist. CHPC intends for the Checklist to help policymakers understand the regulatory barriers to conversions and prioritize regulatory relief that would make it easier, clearer, and more affordable for a homeowner to undergo a basement apartment conversion. It should also serve as a reference guide for any practitioners who are seeking to help a homeowner understand whether or not a conversion is feasible for them.

Understanding the Checklist “signals”:

  • Red signals that compliance is impossible if existing conditions are not met due to insurmountable regulatory barriers or high costs.
  • Yellow signals that compliance may be possible, but could incur significant cost.
  • Green signals that compliance is likely achievable.

Note: This checklist is only concerned with adding a legal rental apartment to the basement of an existing one-family house. It does not include the additional regulations involved in converting a cellar apartment or converting a basement or cellar of an existing two-family house.

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