Converting JLWQA Artist Lofts to Residential in SoHo

by | Last updated Aug 17, 2023 | Lofts, NYC DOB, NYC Zoning

SoHo and NoHo lofts are sometimes designated as Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA). If you are not an artist and would like to own one of these lofts, you can now convert certain JLWQA lofts to unrestricted residential lofts due to the SoHo / NoHo rezoning plan, which has gone into effect.

A JLWQA loft in SoHo or NoHo can be converted from Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists to residential use through a buyout program paying fees to the SoHo-NoHo Arts Fund and submitting applications to the Department of City Planning and the NYC Department of Buildings.  

The building must acquire a new Certificate of Occupancy even if you are converting one apartment. You can convert each apartment separately or all at the same time. Either way, you are getting a new C of O.

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture a Manhattan-based architecture firm. We have worked on many loft renovations over the years, several of which have been JLWQA. Previously, we could not convert these lofts to normal residential use in SoHo and NoHo, but now we can with the new SoHo – NoHo Rezoning. Converting the lofts out of JLWQA will allow you to legally occupy these loft apartments without being an artist.

In this blog post, I will review an outline of the process and some of the issues pertaining to JLWQA conversions.


What is a JLWQA Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists?

A “Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists,” or JLWQA, is a loft apartment in specific zoning districts created to allow artists to live in buildings previously not zoned for residential use. These are more commonly known as Artist Lofts, but the official name is JLWQA.

The JLWQA designation for applicable loft buildings is listed on the Certificate of Occupancy. Not all lofts are JLWQA, so knowing the exact classification concerning the Multiple Dwelling Law is important.

If you want to read more, we have another post where we go over more details on JLWQA Loft Apartments. Below is a sample Certificate of Occupancy from a building with JLWQA Loft Apartments.

JLWQA Loft Certificate of Occupancy

JLWQA Loft Certificate of Occupancy


Converting JLWQA Artist Lofts Process

The conversion of Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists to Residential Use must be filed and approved to designate a Loft as Residential Use. The application process will remove the Artist Live-Work “JLWQA” restriction, which would require at least one of the occupants to be a Certified Artist with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs “DCLA”.

To convert a JLWQA “Artist Loft” to residential use in SoHo or NoHo, you must:

  • Hire an Architect
  • Informational Interest Meeting at DCP
  • Pay Fees to the SoHo NoHo Arts Fund
  • Receive City Planning Commission Chairperson Certification
  • File Notice of Certification
  • Obtain DOB Approvals and Sign-offs


Hire An Architect 

You will hire an architect when converting your JLWQA loft to residential use. If you are also planning renovations, it will be convenient to do both simultaneously. I strongly recommend planning the entire project at one time.  


Informational Interest Meeting at DCP

The Informational Interest Meeting at the Department of City Planning is to discuss the application and requirements. This preliminary meeting is to go over the proposal with the DCP staff. 


Pay SoHo / NoHo Arts Fund

To convert a JLWQA Loft to residential use, you must contribute to the SoHo / NoHo arts fund of $100 per square foot, adjusted annually by the Chairperson on August 1st as per the Consumer Price Index.


File With DCP and Obtain Certification

Your team will file your application with the Department of City Planning. Included will be proof of paying fees to the Arts Fund. DCP will review the application as a “non-discretionary action.” This means if you provide everything they ask for, they have to approve it. It will be an “As of Right” application.


Notice of Certification

Once you have obtained a Notice of Certification, this must be filed against the zoning lot.


Obtain DOB Approval and Certificate of Occupancy

Once the buyout and City Planning application is complete, you can obtain any permits needed at DOB. An architect will file an Alt CO application at the Department of Buildings. A plan examiner will review this application before it is approved. Once the application is approved, the contractor can pull permits, and any work to be done can be completed. 

After renovations, if any are complete, the signoff process can begin. The DOB will send an inspector to the property before issuing a Certificate of Occupancy




Converting Your Loft

There is a great deal of bureaucracy and costs when converting a JLWQA loft to residential use, but it will be well worth it when it is complete. If you hire a good team and know what you are getting into, you will save great trouble and anxiety. Please be aware that NYC agencies having jurisdiction, such as DOB and DCP, are in no rush for anyone, so these things may take time.

As an architect, I study Building and Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts concerning JLWQA Loft Conversions. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provides a general overview of the topic.


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Converting Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists to Residential.

I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.