NYC creating office conversion accelerator to speed up housing projects

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Three major steps have been announced aimed at creating new housing across the city by converting office spaces.

A new “office conversion accelerator” is expected to speed up the process of creating new housing from millions of square feet of empty offices and the Midtown South Neighborhood Plan will update zoning rules.

Mayor Eric Adams says the office-to-residential conversions could create 20,000 new homes for 40,000 New Yorkers in the next decade and the proposal will be part of the upcoming City of Yes for Housing Opportunity citywide zoning text amendment that will unlock the potential for more new housing in every corner of the city.

However, state action would still be needed for office-to-residential conversions to produce a substantial amount of new affordable homes.

Under the proposed actions, the most flexible regulations would be extended to an additional 136 million square feet of office space — roughly the amount of office space in the entire city of Philadelphia — though individual property owners will ultimately decide whether to convert their buildings. Zoning changes would make buildings built before 1990 eligible to convert to housing — an update from the existing 1961 and 1977 cutoffs in various areas — and allow offices and other non-residential buildings to convert to housing anywhere in the city where housing is permitted under zoning. A wider variety of housing types would be allowed, including supportive housing, shared housing, and dorms.

Property owners and applicants can reach out online to seek the accelerator’s help.

The Midtown South Mixed-Use Neighborhood Plan will update zoning to foster a 24/7, live-work, mixed-use neighborhood in the area between 23rd Street and 40th Street from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue.

The plan, which will cover four areas designated for manufacturing a half-century ago, could, for the first time, enable new housing — including permanently affordable housing — to be built in the heart of Manhattan with access to economic opportunities and mass transit where new housing is not permitted under current zoning.

Opportunities will be considered to enable conversion of non-residential buildings to housing, support economic growth and create family-sustaining jobs, and continue to drive the city’s economic recovery.

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