A recent article in Crain’s looked into efforts to change city regulations that might legalize as many as 35,000 basement rental units. The article points out that many of these basement units — those with windows but that are mostly underground — are now rented illegally. Other cities such as Santa Cruz, Ca and Orlando, Fl have changed their zoning rules to legalize more of these kinds of units. Here in New York, the Immigrant Housing Collaborative, a city coalition of housing groups, has pushed the concept and Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer has endorsed the idea. According to the article, his office released a report (see pg. 26) in December that, “predicted that such changes would bring these dwellings ‘out of the shadows.’ Doing so, the report concluded, would add tens of thousands of affordable units to the city’s legal housing stock and would spur economic growth by accommodating more young workers.” Others were critical, pointing out that legalizing illegally rented units does not actually add any housing and fire department officials were concerned that any changes take safety into account. Stringer’s report says that there are 100,000 of these units and about 35 percent of them could be made legal with small modifications existing regulations. Stringer’s report doesn’t identify exactly what changed he’d suggest, but he indicates that “sufficient light and air” would be part of the proposed change. What do you think? Should the city loosen up the rules on basement rental units? Would that change the value of homes that suddenly find themselves sitting on another legal rental unit?
Illegal Solution for More Housing? [Crain’s]
Photo by Alex Siu for Property Shark