Mayor Eric Adams Announces Plans to Convert NYC Offices Into 20,000 Apartments

Mayor Eric Adams Announces Plans to Convert NYC Offices Into 20,000 Apartments
New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks onstage during NYC & Company Foundation Visionaries & Voices Gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York on Dec. 5, 2022. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for NYC & Company Foundation)

Mayor Eric Adams on Monday unveiled plans to convert vacant office space in New York City into new apartments to help relieve the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Following the recommendations in a report from a city-led task force that was established in July of 2022, the mayor is making 11 recommendations that would make changes to state laws and city zoning requirements to ease regulations across 136 million square feet of office space.

While property owners will ultimately decide whether or not to convert their buildings’ use, the laxing of regulations could potentially create as many as 20,000 homes for 40,000 New Yorkers over the next decade.

“We have a roadmap to deliver on a vision for a more vibrant, resilient, prosperous, and affordable city,” said Adams in a statement.

“The need for housing is desperate, and the opportunity offered by underused office space is clear—we know what we need to do. These concrete reforms would clear red tape and create the incentives to create the housing we need for New Yorkers at all income levels.”

Manhattan skyline in New York City on June 13, 2019. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Manhattan skyline in New York City on June 13, 2019. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The 32-page report (pdf) from the Office Adaptive Reuse Task Force is headed by Dan Garodnick, chairman of the City Planning Commission, and another 11 housing experts. The report targets two main issues that the city is facing: a housing crisis and a slow return to in-office hours following the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan would likely benefit both causes while also tackling the city’s zoning laws.

“Our ability to remain a global leader in a rapidly evolving and changing economy will depend on our ability to adapt,” Garodnick said. “Working closely with the City Council and our colleagues in Albany, we will build clear rules and set this city up for success.”

Adams’ office conversion proposal would target Midtown Manhattan, as well as other commercial districts, like Downtown Flushing and Bronx Hub.

“Enabling more offices to convert to housing will help us bring back our commercial districts while also addressing our housing supply crisis,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.

“The recommendations in this report will set us on the path to achieving these critical goals, and I look forward to partnering with our colleagues in Albany and the City Council to ‘Get Stuff Built.’”

There have been similar efforts to convert office spaces into housing units in the past, but they have met with limited success due to the lack of incentives for landlords to convert their office spaces into housing units.

The plan that Adams proposed aims to change this by offering tax breaks and other incentives for landlords who are willing to convert their properties into housing units.