City Council Creating Pilot Program to Create Apartments in East New York

Council Member Brad Lander sponsored Int. 1004, which establishes a pilot program creating legal basement apartments in East New York. Image Credit: Official NYC Council Photo by John McCarten

The program will bring currently illegal basement and cellar apartments up to code, and allow for additional basement and cellar apartments to be created. On February 13, 2019, the New York City Council passed legislation, titled Introduction 1004, establishing a pilot program which allows for the creation and alteration of habitable apartments in basements and cellars in one and two-family dwellings in East New York. The program seeks to address the lack of affordable housing within New York City.

The program is three years in length and is limited to East New York, but will serve as a case study for the rest of the City. The program is made possible through facilitating changes to the City’s building and fire codes, as well as providing $12 million in low-cost loans to eligible property owners overseen by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The legislation would require that completed construction documents be filed with the Department of Buildings within 18 months after its passage. It would also establish standards for basement apartments that are created or altered for which DOB may issue permits and certificates of occupancy. DOB and the Department of Environmental Protection would also be required to waive all fees in connection with applications, permits, and inspections for participating basement apartments.

Currently, the program is backed by Mayor De Blasio and is sponsored by nine council members. The program is an interagency effort involving the Department of Buildings, Department of Housing Preservation, and Development and the Department of City Planning.

“Converting basement units into safe and legal housing is an important way to address New York City’s affordability crisis,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Together with advocates from the BASE (Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone) Coalition, including Chhaya CDC, Cypress Hills LDC, and the Pratt Center for Community Development, we’ve been pushing for years to bring underground units into the light. Thank you to Council Members Rafael Espinal and Inez Barron and the de Blasio administration for developing this thoughtful pilot program for East New York. I look forward to working with our partners to establish the pilot program, and then to learn the lessons we’ll need to expand the program to neighborhoods around the city.”

“Converting basement units is an important way to address New York City’s affordability crisis,” Lander said during the City Council hearing on February 13. “It will also enable us to learn useful lessons that I hope will make it possible to smartly expand this program to neighborhoods in the future.”

The program passed by a vote of 44 approved and five opposed. To read the bill, click here.

By: Samantha Albanese (Samantha Albanese is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).


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