By 5 Borough Housing Movement | February 28, 2023

Nation’s Largest Property Service Workers Union Calls on Albany to Enact Housing Reforms Ahead of State Budget Deadline

February 28, 2023 – 32BJ SEIU today called on the State Legislature to act on the recommendations of the 5 Borough Housing Movement that would create thousands of new units and ensure affordability. The largest property service workers union in America announced its support the same day as a crucial City Council Land Use Committee oversight hearing on office-to-residential conversions.

Support from 32BJ, which represents 175,000 workers, represents the excitement many New Yorkers have to update the State’s outdated housing laws. On Wednesday, the 5 Borough Housing Movement will submit testimony to the Joint Legislative Public Hearing on 2023 Executive Budget Proposal.

“Given the magnitude and urgency of our city’s housing crisis we need to look for the win-wins,” said Manny Pastreich, President of 32BJ SEIU. “The moment demands bold proposals like the conversion of offices to residential units coupled with ensuring that such a policy include good-paying jobs so New Yorkers can afford to live in the City. We can’t hope to overcome this challenge if we leave anything off the table. We must ensure that working New Yorkers – that form the backbone of this great city – can continue live and thrive here in the City.”

“32BJ’s support underscores that these are forward-thinking proposals to create housing, jobs, and new opportunities,” said John Sanchez, Executive Director of the 5 Borough Housing Movement. “The support of this union and the 175,000 women and men it represents should send the message across all five boroughs that it’s time to get to work expanding conversions, lifting the FAR cap, and incentivizing affordability.”

The movement is calling on State lawmakers to address this issue by putting forth policies including:

  • Enabling Office-to-Residential Conversions
    Making sensible changes to State law will allow the large-scale conversion of commercial buildings to residential use. The most likely targets for conversions are older office buildings in Manhattan that are struggling to compete with newer offices due to the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Lifting the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Cap
    The current 12 FAR cap obstructs affordable housing by limiting the density of new construction in New York City. Lifting the cap will unlock opportunities for conversions, particularly around Manhattan transit hubs.
  • Helping New Conversions to Deliver Affordable Housing
    It is not enough to promote conversions that will deliver market rate housing. Government should provide a tax incentive to encourage converted buildings to include affordable units.

With these policies, the coalition believes future conversions could produce tens of thousands of new homes in Manhattan over the next decade, with a significant portion set aside as permanently affordable.


More information on the 5 Borough Housing Movement can be found at 5borohousing.org.