When the word crisis is used in dialog there is an immediate sense of urgency. New York is in the midst of a housing crisis resulting in numerous people unable to afford one of the few houses for sale due to the tremendous costs, and many who are too frustrated, have already packed up and left. The need for affordable housing has reached a fever pitch and many are looking for answers. Sometimes, especially when put under tremendous stress, we tend to canalize our sights on a single answer not looking around and reviewing a few potential solutions.
One potential solution to the crises besides what has already been proposed is retrofitting an existing building. Repurposing an existing space is not a simple task and has drawbacks, but it also has many benefits. Some of the draw backs, especially in older buildings, are that there might be harmful building materials used that will need to be remediated, such as asbestosis. Other draw backs are that the existing infrastructure need to be demolished and upgraded due to it being out of code compliance. Another drawback is foundation issues such as water infiltration due to a lack of water mitigation and water proofing.
The benefits arguably outweigh the disadvantages in certain situations. Some of the benefits are that the renovations can start almost immediately with a higher potential to meet the demand for affordable housing in the shortest time possible. Another benefit is that it provides the repurposing of historically important building, preserving the history of the neighborhood and giving it a second life. One real world example is the Cheney Mill Apartments in Manchester, Connecticut.
From an environmental perspective it is also provides potentially a lower environmental impact, avoiding the intrusive and disruptive construction process.
Regardless of whether or not we choose a path of building from scratch or transforming an existing building, we must work together, make decisions in a timely matter, communicate constantly, and want to find common ground to get this done.