On Tuesday, the New York City Council will hold its first hearing on a three-year pilot program to create livable basement apartments in East New York, reports Crain’s New York.
Councilmembers Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal and Inez Barron introduced the legislation earlier this year with the hopes that the program will create more affordable housing within existing buildings while bringing illegal units up to code. Basement apartments are common throughout the city, but the majority do not meet fire and building codes.
East New York was chosen as the pilot’s launch site because of its ideal mix of one- and two-family homes, which often have unoccupied or illegally occupied basement units; the program is also part of the 2016 East New York Neighborhood Plan that includes a focus on preserving and creating affordable housing in the area.
“The basement pilot program was a sticking point for the East New York Neighborhood Plan to pass,” said Espinal. “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally, so this will help homeowners by providing an avenue for income while helping tenants by providing an affordable and safe place to live.”
The bill would authorize the Department of Buildings to modify its existing codes for basement units with clear guidelines to ensure livable standards. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development will provide subsidies to homeowners who want to participate in the pilot. Eligible homeowners must have an income at or below 165 percent of the area median Income, and occupy the home as their primary residence.
“This program will increase the stock of affordable housing in East New York, provide additional income to homeowners and ensure tenant safety,” said de Blasio in June who is backing the program with$11.7 million in funding.