Velazquez Calls for Restoration of Funding to the Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program
Washington, DC - Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has written to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to restore full funding to the Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program (BACPP). The BACPP, launched in 2019, aims to assist forty East New York homeowners in the conversion of their basements into rental units. This initiative aims to provide affordable and legal rental units to the neighborhood, both stabilizing homeownership and increasing the number of affordable residences. The administration made a commitment to the East New York Community to engage in the BACPP four years ago. The Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the city, however, almost completely cuts all funding to this program.
“The Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program was a promise from the city to the people of East New York,” stated Velázquez. “If the city cuts this program, we break that promise. This initiative was urgently needed prior to the pandemic. During the crisis, the BACPP proves even more critical to those at risk of living in overcrowded places or facing the possibility of homelessness. We need to use every tool possible to expand the stock of affordable housing, yet this budget goes in the opposite direction.”
"The Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program was a commitment made to East New York by the de Blasio administration during the rezoning of this neighborhood,” said Michelle Neugebauer, Executive Director, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. “It serves to stabilize homeownership in a community struggling against predatory speculation. And it creates legal, healthy, and affordable rental units at the same time. The BACPP is desperately needed in East New York to counter the forces of displacement and the economic impact of COVID-19. We hope the de Blasio administration makes good on its promise to East New York and reinstates full funding for this critical program."
The text of the letter can be found below. A pdf version of the letter can be found here:
June 11, 2020
The Honorable Bill de Blasio
Mayor, New York City
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
I am writing to urge you to restore full funding to the Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program (BACPP). This three-year pilot program, launched in early 2019, promises to assist forty homeowners in East New York in converting their basements into legal, healthy, and affordable rental units. It will simultaneously stabilize homeownership in a neighborhood already struggling with high levels of speculation and create affordable housing for a community facing significant displacement pressures. It is also worth noting that the BACPP was a clear commitment your administration made to the East New York community during the rezoning process just four years ago. This is a commitment that must be upheld.
The City’s proposed Executive Budget for FY21, however, all but eliminates funding for this important program, slashing $1.09 million in the coming year, ensuring that it cannot move forward at a time when it’s need is more critical than ever.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the profound inequalities that continue to plague our city. I certainly appreciate that difficult decisions will have to be made to respond to the looming fiscal crisis. However, it is imperative that our fiscal response not be carried out on the backs of communities like East New York.
Cutting programs like BACPP will only widen the divide in the tale of two cities. This program was urgently needed in East New York before the pandemic — it is more urgently needed now. It is a relatively low-cost but extremely high-impact program that at once confronts the mounting risks of foreclosure, unhealthy housing, overcrowding, and homelessness. It is a program with economic stimulus built into it, providing homeowners with an ongoing reliable source of monthly income. Moreover, East New York was an epicenter of the city’s last housing crisis. Our response to this new economic crisis must alleviate, not exacerbate, this inherent inequality and vulnerability.
Importantly, the program also lays the groundwork for a citywide basement conversion program. As the city’s housing crisis deepens in these desperate economic times, this unique affordable housing model is an untapped innovation that could bring relief to thousands of homeowners and tenants across the city. By eliminating the East New York pilot program, the city also deprives itself of this new and impactful housing model.
Just over one year into the pilot, nearly 900 community members have expressed interest in the program, with hundreds moving through the qualification process, and several poised to begin pre-development work. I have heard from these homeowners directly. They could not be more clear in how crucial this program is, not only to them, but to their families, and to the East New York community as a whole.
I strongly urge you to not abandon your promise to East New York in its time of desperate need. I again respectfully ask that you restore full funding to this essential program and ensure that our long road to recovery is just and equitable.
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress
Louise Carroll, Commissioner, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development