• New York Reverting to 19th Century Housing Standards, for the Poors!

    March 6, 2019 // 10 Comments »

     
    Certain basement apartments in East New York (for you out-of-towners, that’s code for “da’ po’ parts o’ town”) will be able to become legal under a city pilot program intended to provide affordable form of housing.

    new law to authorize the pilot Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program (BACPP) was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday. The legislation creates a three-year initiative overseen by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development during which low- to middle-income homeowners in East New York and Cypress Hills can apply for low or no-interest loans to convert their basements and cellars into legal dwellings.

    Budding Fred Trumps, take note: homeowners outside of those crappy neighborhoods may also seek legalization on their own, albeit without city funding. The areas where the city plans to pay for the experiment with human beings living in basements previously considered uninhabitable are largely black and hispanic. East New York’s rate of violent crimes per capita is greater than the city as a whole, as is the incarceration rate. So the place has that going for it to attract tourism if this basement things doesn’t work out.

    The new law amends things like minimum ceiling heights, the requirement to have windows in all bedrooms, and some fire safety rules such as multiple ways to get out of the building. It is a real pain in the neck to have only one front window to escape through when the fire is in that room, you know.

    Converting basements into sweatshop look-a-likes is not cheap. The city will allocate $12 million to cover program staffing costs, implement, and manage the program, along with loan amounts for the construction of 40 homes. The maximum loan per homeowner is $120,000. So, math: about $7 million in administrative costs to fund less than $5 million in loans. And the loans will be low or no-interest, or “possibly forgivable” to help create new slum lords. Seems socialism-y enough for me!
     

    According to the city, it is all supposed to look like this, with bright colored graphics substituting for actual daylight:

    But the best part of all this is that the laws NYC is seeking to change to allow for these basement apartments were enacted in large part around the turn of the century to prevent the abuses of tenement housing shown, for example, in Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives — lack of light and air, no windows in bedrooms, etc.

    One of the reforms of the last time we barked about having a Progressive Era, the New York State Tenement House Act of 1901, was also one of the first laws to ban the construction of the dark, poorly ventilated apartments occupied then primarily by immigrants we did not care about. The law required new buildings to have among other things exterior windows in every room and ceilings of a minimal height. Indoor toilets were also mandated, and for now at least New York does not seem to be pulling back that part of the law. Do standby for the measles epidemic, last seen in these parts in the early 20th century, as anti-vaxx cosplayers seek to keep up with these new city standards.
     
    To claim to create affordable housing, New York is literally reverting to some of the 19th century standards it was shamed into fixing once upon a time. Those charting the course of capitalism, make a note of it!

     
     

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    Posted in #99Percent, Economy

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