All five of New York City’s borough presidents are urging state legislators to make it easier to convert unoccupied commercial space into residential units in order to reignite economic activity and to ease the city’s ongoing housing crisis. The five municipal leaders are requesting that the legislature amend the state budget to allow for the conversion of empty or unoccupied commercial office space into apartments and to provide tax incentives to promote the inclusion of affordable housing.
“You can’t just wave a magic wand and say convert everything,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “You’re going to need tax incentives, perhaps tax abatements, perhaps some subsidy dollars set aside.”
Strategies to streamline the conversion process, which include lifting the residential floor area ratio cap on how many apartments can be in a building in NYC and provide tax breaks to encourage converted buildings to include permanently affordable apartments, can be found in the 5 Borough Housing Movement. Other strategies that the borough presidents are encouraging lawmakers to consider include expediting the rezoning process, which under current legislation, can take years in some cases.
Office-to-residential conversions are not unique to NYC, but the stars may be aligning for more conversions to take place in the city that never sleeps. The unified plea from the borough presidents comes on the heels of city mayor Eric Adams’ recommendations to convert underused offices into homes for NYC residents.