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Mayor Adams Tours Offices Being Converted to Homes, Highlights Key Affordable Housing Priorities for State Budget

March 13, 2023

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Walkthrough of 160 Water Street Demonstrates Need for More Flexible Rules That Could Help Turn Vacant Offices Into 20,000 New Homes

Albany Can Take Action to Tackle City's Affordable Housing Crisis With Affordable Housing Incentive Programs, Removal of Housing Restrictions, and Rental Assistance Funding for NYCHA Residents

New York – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Councilmember Justin Brannan today toured 160 Water Street, an office building being converted to housing in Lower Manhattan, to highlight the need for investments and policy changes in the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget that would help create and preserve more affordable housing in the five boroughs.

"Last year, we declared that New York City would lead the way on affordable housing in America by becoming a 'City of Yes,'" said Mayor Adams. "But we've said from the beginning that we cannot solve this problem without help from the state. We need this year's budget to include programs that make it easier to convert offices into homes, incentives for the construction and preservation of affordable housing, assistance for NYCHA tenants, and a host of other investments that will make New York more affordable for working families. Working with our partners in Albany, we can take the next major step towards providing quality housing for all New Yorkers."

"Our administration has rolled out an ambitious housing agenda that would speed up new construction and allow more affordable housing to be built in every part of the city," said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres Springer. "Now, we need our partners in Albany to give us the tools to go even farther, so we can meet our moonshot goal of creating 500,000 additional homes over the next decade. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for including so many of our housing priorities in her executive budget, and to Speaker Adams and Councilmember Brannan for partnering with us on a strategy to convert more unused office buildings to affordable housing. We can solve this housing crisis, but only if we all work together."

"Our housing crisis demands creative solutions to ensure all New Yorkers have the safe, stable homes they deserve," said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. "As New York City continues its economic recovery post-COVID, we have an opportunity to build more mixed-use communities with the live, work, and play features of a 24/7 neighborhood. The Office Adaptive Reuse Task Force gave us the playbook, and it's time for our colleagues in Albany to approve the tools to bring these new homes online."

"With a high rate of vacancy in offices, and an urgent need to create housing, we are advancing the right plan for the right moment," said New York City Department of City Planning Director and City Planning Commission Chair Dan Garodnick. "We need to make it easier for underutilized offices to convert to housing and, for the first time, actually incentivize permanent affordability in the process."

Mayor Adams highlighted several key programs under consideration in Albany, including:

  • Regulatory changes and incentives that would spur more office-to-residential conversions;
  • An extension of and replacement for the 421-a affordable housing incentive program;
  • A modernized J-51 program to keep existing affordable homes from falling into disrepair;
  • Removal of the 12-floor area ratio cap on residential buildings in midtown Manhattan;
  • Rental assistance funding for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents;
  • A pathway to legalize illegal and unsafe basements and cellar apartments; and
  • Modernization of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development's financing tools to promote climate resiliency, the creation of child care or senior centers in affordable housing, community land trusts, affordable homeownership, and the conversion of unsafe, illegal basement apartments into safe, legal homes.

These and other changes are essential to reaching Mayor Adams' "moonshot" goal of 500,000 new homes in the next decade to create a more affordable, equitable, and prosperous city.
160 Water Street is one of the few office buildings able to convert into homes under New York's restrictive rules for conversions. Earlier this year, Mayor Adams released the New York City Office Adaptive Reuse Study – developed following the passage of Local Law 43 sponsored by Councilmember Brannan – with 11 recommended changes to state laws and city zoning requirements that would extend the most flexible conversion regulations to an additional 136 million square feet of office space.

"When I first introduced the office conversion bill years ago, I had one simple question: Could we actually convert vacant Manhattan office space into desperately needed affordable housing? I knew 74 percent of New Yorkers supported the idea, but how would it work?" said Councilmember Brannan. "Now, the task force has given us a clear roadmap forward for how we can chip away at our housing crisis by putting this unused office space to good use. After every crisis, New York City has reinvented itself. There is a ton of opportunity here, and I'm excited about what's to come."

“To confront our city’s dire housing crisis, we must take a comprehensive and creative approach to create new homes for New Yorkers,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The high rate of commercial office vacancies presents a unique opportunity to convert unused spaces into residential housing. Achieving our housing goals will require collaboration with the state on office conversions, eliminating the 12 FAR cap to increase density for affordable housing production, and increasing resources for both NYCHA, as well as other affordable housing development and preservation efforts. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to deliver even more housing for New Yorkers.”