Testimony March 2, 2023

Testimony: Joint Legislative Public Hearing on 2023 Executive Budget Proposal – Housing

Wednesday March 1, 2023

Hon. Liz Krueger, Chair, NYS Senate, Finance

Hon. Helene Weinstein, Chair, NYS Assembly, Ways & Means

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 the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal to change the State Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) to enable office to residential conversions, empower NYC to provide more housing by lifting the state FAR (floor to area ratio) Cap, and provide a tax incentive for affordable housing as part of office conversions.

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.1 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%.2 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%.3 This is space that can be used to house people of all income levels.

New York is an increasingly unaffordable place to live and raise a family. Empty and underutilized 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.