State Elected Officials Back 5 Borough Housing Movement’s Push To Deliver Housing Reforms

Published on March 21, 2023, 3:00 pm
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Three New York State lawmakers have joined the 5 Borough Housing Movement’s call for the Legislature to lift the FAR cap, expand office-to-residential conversions, and create an incentive to ensure affordable housing is created. Their support comes as the 5 Borough Housing Movement and members of its coalition – including the New York Building Congress, the National Urban League, and 32BJ SEIU – hold an Albany Day of Action as the State budget deadline approaches.

The joint announcement comes less than a week after the New York City Council passed a resolution, introduced by Council Member Justin Brannan, calling on the legislature to expand conversions and pass Governor Hochul’s proposed incentive for affordable housing when this work takes place.

“The more it has become virtually impossible for working people to live in Manhattan, the quicker the housing burden has shifted to the outer boroughs,” said State Senator Nathalia Fernandez, District 34. “For decades, lifelong residents in Brooklyn and Queens have been priced out of their communities in order to keep NYC a worldwide destination for people to live and work. Over the past few years, we are seeing the same thing happen to the Bronx—a borough many thought to be immune to this problem. There is not a silver bullet for NYC’s housing issues but Governor Hochul’s proposal to convert many of Manhattan’s underutilized commercial buildings into residential spaces should ease the burden all of the outer boroughs have been carrying for so long. The Bronx continues to see its residents move elsewhere due to affordability issues so it is crucial that this proposal will ensure these converted units remain affordable otherwise the same problem will persist.”

“We have a housing affordability crisis in NYC, and we have been challenged with the task of creating greater housing affordability specially for our black and brown families,” said Assembly Member Yudelka Tapia, District 86. “That’s why I’ve been pleased to hear both the Governor and Mayor express their support for office-to-residential conversions. Updating the City’s outdated zoning laws along with lifting the FAR cap to develop more affordable housing, represent clear ways the Legislature can act in addressing the housing crisis.”

“All New Yorkers deserve the right to safe, affordable housing,” said Assembly Member Brian Cunningham, District 43. “As New York’s housing crisis reaches critical mass, developing an innovative solution that does not adversely impact the environment and distinct nature of our communities, is paramount. Converting underutilized office spaces into safe, affordable housing units, near transit-rich centers, is a tool to repair our housing shortage.”

“We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from lawmakers who are ready to build the next generation of New York,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Chairman of the 5 Borough Housing Movement and President and CEO of the New York Building Congress. “As we enter these final weeks before the budget deadline, this coalition will continue to drive home that lifting the FAR cap alongside expanded office conversions is essential to creating affordable housing.”

“The FAR cap has kept the growth of Manhattan behind as the outer boroughs have done the heavy lifting,” said John Sanchez, Executive Director of the 5 Borough Housing Movement. “Our hope is for the Legislature to end this paradigm by lifting the cap in tandem with office conversions and an incentive for affordable housing, so we can finally give New York City control of its own housing destiny.”

The movement is calling on State lawmakers to address this issue by putting forth policies including:

  • Enabling Office-to-Residential Conversions

Making sensible changes to State law will allow the large-scale conversion of commercial buildings to residential use. The most likely targets for conversions are older office

buildings in Manhattan that are struggling to compete with newer offices due to the impacts of the pandemic.

  • Lifting the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Cap

The current 12 FAR cap obstructs affordable housing by limiting the density of new construction in New York City. Lifting the cap will unlock opportunities for conversions, particularly around Manhattan transit hubs.

  • Helping New Conversions to Deliver Affordable Housing

It is not enough to promote conversions that will deliver market rate housing. Government should provide a tax incentive to encourage converted buildings to include affordable units.

With these policies, the coalition believes future conversions could produce tens of thousands of new homes in Manhattan over the next decade, with a significant portion set aside as permanently affordable.


About the 5 Borough Housing Movement

More information on the 5 Borough Housing Movement can be found by visiting here.

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