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Effort to change empty NYC offices to housing still needs approval from Albany

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has proposed a plan to convert thousands of square feet of empty office space into housing, but the plan still needs approval from lawmakers in Albany.

The city is hoping to create as many as 500,000 new homes over the next decade by converting office space into residential units.

However, certain zoning regulations in the city’s central business districts must be loosened to expand the pool of office buildings that can be converted.

Developers have an incentive to jack up rent prices to recoup the cost of conversion, but the mayor is hoping to encourage property owners to build affordable housing by giving them a big tax break.

Known as 421a, this tax break expired in June, but Governor Hochul backs it and is working to get state lawmakers to approve it.

Mayor Adams and his team toured one of the latest office buildings to be converted into residential housing in the financial district on Monday.

However, the cost of conversion means a developer has to buy out the tenants of the building, and only certain buildings in certain areas can be converted.

The mayor’s plan requires cooperation from Albany, and legislators will need to comply in order to loosen zoning regulations and make the plan feasible.

While the plan is ambitious, the amount of affordable housing that can be created through these conversions may be limited without some level of government subsidy.

Nonetheless, the city is pushing forward with its post-pandemic recovery, with the exception of its 136 million square feet of empty office space that still sits unused.

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