NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As New York City continues to grow and expand, housing becomes more scarce and, unfortunately, more expensive.
That’s something Mayor Bill de Blasio is looking to change that by tapping into what he calls an “underused” housing resource.
It’s no secret affordable housing is hard to come by in the city.
“I think it’s out of control at this point right now. That’s why many people are in public housing,” one woman said.
“There’s a shortage of housing right now and it’s very costly,” another woman said.
De Blasio announced his plans to combat that by making it easier for homeowners to legally rent their basements, cellars or external accessory units.
In 2018, East New York was chosen for the pilot program that currently offers homeowners extra guidance and low-interest loans to renovate apartments to make sure they are safe and up to code.
The area was chosen due to the large amount of one- and two-family homes.
“We’ve heard that there are potentially tens of thousands of residents across New York City that are living in illegal but also unsafe basements and cellars. Because they’re not safe, they’re particularly prone to fire hazards and other conditions, and they’re also not protected as renters,” said Kim Darga, with NYC Housing Preservation and Development.
But there are quite a few obstacles to getting basements and cellars to become legal rentals.
“There’s a lot of code requirements and there are certainly cost implications as well,” Darga said.
The mayor’s office is looking to streamline the process by amending zoning laws, giving homeowners more flexibility to add or renovate the future apartment, partnering with the City Council to introduce legislation to help homeowners legalize an apartment, and helping homeowners pay for it by offering low-interest loans.
Housing officials are using the findings from the pilot program to make citywide changes.
“Affordable housing is hard to come by and certainly safety is a real issue as well. New York City, we have a housing crisis so creating opportunities, new, affordable opportunities, for renters across the city is really important,” Darga said.
Some East New York residents say it’s a step in the right direction towards affordable housing.
CBSN New York caught up with homeowner Manny Washington, who says the offer was recently presented to him and his neighbors.
“It’s a great idea. It’s just that I’m not really renting right now. But in the future, if I did want to, it would be a good thing to get involved in the program,” he said.
The mayor’s office expects at least 10,000 safe and legal apartments to stem from these changes within the next decade.