LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) -- Mayor Eric Adams toured offices on Monday that are being converted into homes as he highlighted the key affordable housing priorities for the state budget.
According to the Back to Work Barometer, about 55% of office space in the metro area is unoccupied and the mayor said he knows how to make better use of it.
There is roughly 136 million square feet of vacant office space that could be converted to apartments and the mayor said that must be addressed as the city faces a housing crisis.
Adams and NYC Councilmember Justin Brannan toured 160 Water Street in Lower Manhattan to draw attention to the need for investments and policy changes.
It was once an office building in the heart of the Financial District, but by next summer, it will consist of 588 studio and one-bedroom apartments -- starting at $3,000 per month.
"In the end, it's a win win, we don't need all this vacant office space, we need housing, let's figure it out and get it done," Brannan said.
The concept is no easy task that is complicated by regulatory and financial barriers.
"Right now if you look at the map of where this type of conversion is allowed, it's really a patchwork, depending on when the building is built and where it is in the city," NYC Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer said.
"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."
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.
-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.
The mayor said these and other changes are essential to reaching his "moonshot" goal of 500,000 new homes in the next decade to create a more affordable, equitable, and prosperous city.
"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."