A switch to remote work for many companies has left more office space vacant, and possibly available for different uses. On December 15, 2021, the City Council voted to approve Int. 2246-A, which creates a task force to study the potential of conversion of vacant and/or commercially unviable office space for different uses. The bill aims to address questions about how to best handle changing uses of office space for businesses, many of whom have transitioned to remote work due to the pandemic. The bill was sponsored by Council Member Justin Brannan.
The task force would be required to study the feasibility of conversion of these unused spaces for affordable housing and other uses. The task force will consider factors including the economic implications of these conversions, and the potential effects on health and welfare.
The task force will comprise of: the Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); the Director of the Department of City Planning (DCP); the Commissioner of Buildings (DOB); and the President of the Economic Development Corporation, or their respective designees. The task force would also have eight appointed members with expertise relating to office conversions. Six of these members would be appointed by the Mayor, one by the Public Advocate, and one by the Speaker of the Council. One of these members must be a union representative.
The task force is required to submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the Mayor, Speaker, and Public Advocate within two years. After the report is submitted, the task force will terminate.
Council Member Brannan stated, “Everyone knows the COVID-19 pandemic has presented our city with unprecedented challenges, and we need to know how to boldly meet this moment. Remote work has left office spaces sitting empty, and for at least some companies and industries it’s likely here to stay. At the same time, tenants are facing the eventual expiration of the eviction moratorium, and homelessness is prevalent and carries more health risks than ever before. Why not turn some of our empty office space into affordable housing? Studying this question is a no brainer: at worst, we decide it’s not the best way forward and come up with something else. At best, we tackle multiple problems at once and help preserve health and dignity for all New Yorkers.”
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)