Testimony of The Real Estate Board Of New York Before The Committee Of Housing And Buildings in Support of a Demonstration Program For Basement Apartments – Int. No. 1004

The Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. (REBNY) is a broadly based trade association representing owners, developers, brokers, managers and real estate professionals active throughout New York City. We are in support of the proposed legislation to establish a demonstration program to facilitate the creation and alteration of habitable apartments in basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family dwellings.

We believe a variety of housing types is important to the overall market health. We also recognize that the city’s housing production has not kept pace with the city’s job and related population growth. Over the last twenty-five years, census data shows that our population has increased by 19.7% to over 8.4 million people. Between 2005 and 2016 the city added over a half of million people, but only approximately 125,000 housing units. More housing is necessary to sustain our increasing population and job growth. Without more housing units, our economy will stagnate and more pressure will be exerted on the housing we already have.

In the Regional Plan Association (RPA)’s Fourth Regional Plan, released in 2017, the RPA proposes an immediate influx to our housing stock. By allowing households to rent basement or garage units, the region could add 500,000 units – 4x as much as the city produced in ten years. However, there are real concerns regarding fire and safety, and general building code, compliance. We also agree that everyone has the right to a safe home. That is why we support the pilot program outlined in this bill to test the feasibility of the RPA’s idea.

Additionally, the program parameters are built upon a mandate of technical and financial assistance by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). We believe that this is a critical component to ensure the success of the program.

We commend the co-sponsors, Council Members Lander, Cabrera, Espinal and Barron, and Mayor de Blasio, for pursuing a practical idea to create more housing while ensuring the legalization and code compliance of living situations that many already utilize. We encourage the City Council to vote in support of the proposed legislation.


Reggie Thomas
Senior Vice President – Government Affairs
Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY)
(212) 616-5209