New York City officials are kicking off a proposal to convert empty office buildings into affordable housing units as remote work continues after the pandemic. Mayor Eric Adams and New York's Department of City Planning director Dan Garodnick outlined the next steps of their "City of Yes for Housing Opportunity," initiative on Thursday 17 August at a news briefing, according to a press release on the city's website.
The proposal includes producing as many as 20,000 homes for 40,000 New Yorkers, amid a growing housing crisis. Adams has already committed $24 billion to create affordable housing, but his plans still require state approval to produce a substantial number of affordable homes.
Housing construction in the city is growing at a slow pace, city leaders say, with the borough of Manhattan approving no new units of housing in the past month. Just 10 buildings with 279 units in total were approved across the city's other four boroughs during that time. As a result, demand for housing is outstripping supply, leading to rising rent and house prices. Adams previously announced his "moonshot" goal to build 500,000 homes to address the issue.
To speed up the process, Adams launched an Office Conversation Accelerator – a process that convenes various experts from government organizations including the New York City Department of Buildings and the Board of Standard and Appeals to help building owners determine how feasible projects are and secure the necessary permits.
Major companies like Salesforce and Meta that have offices in cities like New York and San Francisco have experienced a lower office occupancy rate in recent years as many employees have opted to work from home since the pandemic.
Meta said it would not renew its lease for two of its New York offices in Hudson Yards in December 2022, this was partly driven by the rise in remote work and its wider cost-cutting measures.
The amount of office space available to rent in Manhattan reached a record high during the first part of 2023, according to data from real estate firm Colliers which started tracking New York's office market in 2000, per The New York Times.
Empty office buildings are an issue across US cities including San Francisco and Chicago. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that over 2,000 US office buildings could be transformed into as many as 400,000 apartment units.