Housing February 28, 2023

Testimony: New York City Council Hearing on Land Use

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of the 5BORO Institute – a think tank dedicated to advancing innovative and implementable solutions to tackle NYC’s most challenging problems. 

We write to express support for Reso. 0503 to call on the State legislature to:

  • Expand office to residential conversions
  • Lift the FAR cap of 12
  • Create incentives to ensure that affordable housing is created once these transformations take place

Affordability has long plagued New York City and has reached a crisis point. Rents remain at record highs across the five boroughs and the trend has only worsened as we enter 2023. Affordable housing is the most cost-effective means to reduce childhood poverty and to increase economic mobility. It also bolsters the overall economy and GDP growth. Plainly, however, it is imperative that New York City remain a place where people of all walks of life can live and thrive. We need 560,000 apartments by 2030 and the vacancy rate for apartments renting below $1500 is less than 1%. The lack of affordable housing means we are going to price people out of the city entirely.

However, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Even as the city recovers, hybrid and remote work appears as though it is here to stay. Since the beginning of this year office occupancy rates have hovered at around 46%. This is space that can be used to house people of all income levels. 

In the interim, we believe it is key that the city maximize planned production and preservation of affordable housing units, as well as distribute the necessary rental assistance vouchers. This will require our City’s housing agencies to be properly staffed. Office conversion will take time, and the City’s production of affordable housing has slowed considerably due to vacancies across City government.

New York is an increasingly unaffordable place to live and raise a family. Empty office spaces present a unique opportunity we must seize. 5BORO strongly supports the reforms necessary to allow for the conversion of office space to residential housing as we rebuild our city so that it can and will sustain and support future generations.