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Legalizing Cellar, Attic Units Could Alleviate Housing Crunch

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Unrelenting pressure on rents and a general lack of housing stock have led a loose coalition of city groups to advocate for the legalization of verboten pseudo-residences in order to help alleviate the crunch and provide affordable housing options. The Times delves into the complex issue today, noting that politicians, including councilman Brad Lander and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio, agree with housing advocacy organizations that units in attics, cellars, basements, commercial lofts, and rooming houses can be made safe for tenants. That is, of course, presuming they are equipped with an appropriate number of entrances and exits, a decent amount of light and air, built-in protections against flooding and other hazards, and other non-negotiable necessities for decent urban living.

Landowners with spaces that qualify could be incentivized or assisted to convert them into legal housing. This push, on the heels of Bloomberg's support of building micro-units, marks one more step toward permanently revising the definition of a safe, legal apartment in New York City.

While many landlords would jump at the chance to have extra rental income from, say, a studio in their cellars, neighbors aren't always so happy about the thought of cramming more people into a given building or block. Problems include: garbage; parking; school and hospital overcrowding; and others that the neighbors probably haven't thought of yet.

Those trying to get more currently illegal units on the books as viable rental options counter that the city's rules are due for an update anyway; at the moment, it's illegal for more than three non-related adults to live in the same dwelling, a law that is regularly broken by run-of-the-mill roommates. By one count, there are more than 114,000 of these "accessory" units across the city?primarily in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island?and it seems a waste to not make the most of them.
· Looser Rules on Illegal Housing Sought [NYT]
?Photo via Curbed Flickr Pool/Scoboco of an NYC basement that may or may not be illegal?we don't know.