Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the conversion of commercial space to long-term housing (especially, but not only, affordable housing) remains a topic of discussion amongst New York City policymakers. Repurposing under-utilized commercial space as housing might appear as a rebalancing of land uses in response to shifting demand—as well as a way to build new housing with fewer neighborhood objections over bulk and height. To better understand these opportunities and to supplement its prior research on the issue, the Furman Center held a workshop with leading architects, land use lawyers, housing providers, and policy experts. This brief addresses some of the most important barriers to commercial-to-residential
conversions, with a particular focus on hotels, and the options for policy interventions to promote additional conversions.
As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, policymakers in New York City and Albany have debated whether and how to support the conversion of hotels into housing—and especially affordable housing—as part of a solution to the city’s ongoing housing crisis. To better understand what opportunities for hotel conversion exist in New York City, this paper examines the legal regime governing hotel conversions to identify the most important regulatory barriers to such adaptive uses.