NEW YORK (PIX11) — All five borough presidents are calling on state lawmakers to make it easier to convert vacant commercial office space into apartments, with a certain percentage becoming affordable housing.

“We have over 80,000 individuals living in homeless shelters as we speak, and we still
expect another influx of our migrant brothers and sisters,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.

Richards said state lawmakers need to work the changes into the upcoming state budget.

“You can’t just wave a magic wand and say convert everything, so you’re going to need tax incentives, perhaps tax abatements, perhaps some subsidy dollars set aside,” added Richards.

Genesis Aquino, the NYS Tenants & Neighbors executive director, said the plan would need to include truly affordable apartments. 

 “The median income for people in rent-stabilized apartments is about $47,000 a year…that’s not enough to pay $3,000 in rent. So if you’re going to build affordable housing at that rent, it’s not going to work,” said Aquino.

Aquino told PIX11 News state lawmakers must also work on an immediate fix like a new housing voucher program.  

Gov. Kathy Hochul has previously announced a plan to grant developers who convert office space into apartments a property tax break for 19 years. At least 20% would have to be affordable units.