SRO stands for Single Room Occupancy. These are typically Class B rental units where individuals rent a single room and have shared bathroom facilities. In New York, many small buildings, townhouses, and brownstones were converted to SROs. Today there is a trend for new homeowners to purchase these and convert the SROs to single family homes.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture a NYC architecture firm. At my firm we have worked on SRO conversions to Class A multi family and to single family use. As I write this article we are currently converting 2 different SRO Brownstone properties in Manhattan into single family residences. This blog post will focus on the process for converting an SRO to single family but we have another post on Converting SRO to Multi Family if you are interested.
Verify Legal SRO Status
The first thing to do when converting an SRO to a single family home is to verify the existing legal use of the building. There are different resources for this, such as the Certificate of Occupancy from the Department of Buildings (NYC DOB) or the building I-Card for Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). The records from DOB and HPD are critical for these type of building alterations.
Obtain a Certificate of No Harassment
In order to convert an SRO property you will need to obtain a Certificate of No Harassment (CONH). This takes time, so planning ahead is critical. No applications to the Department of Buildings is approved without this document. The Certificate of No Harassment is usually obtained by a housing lawyer familiar with the SRO process. Another issue to take into account is that the building will need to be vacant. In many cases the purchased building will already be vacant, but talk to a lawyer to make sure this process has been done legally and without any harassment to the tenants.
Hire an SRO Architect
You will need an Architect for any alteration to SRO buildings, including, of course, converting the SRO to single family use. As an architect working on SROs, we start by assessing the existing building and producing a set of existing conditions drawings. After the assessment is complete, we move on to design the new home alteration. In this process, we will work closely with the homeowner to design a home that thoroughly suits their needs. It is important to tailor all renovations to the individual owners.
Once the overall design is complete, the architect and their team (including engineers as needed) produce a set of technical architectural / engineering plans and specifications. These are filed with the Department of Buildings and are used by the contractors for bidding the work and for construction. During construction the architect will stay on the project and periodically visit the jobsite. At completion the architect will assist in project closeout, punch list, and obtaining a new Certificate of Occupancy from the DOB.
File an Alteration Type 1
If you are converting an SRO to single family, your architect will file an Alteration Type 1 or Alt 1 with the Department of Buildings. This is an alteration that results in a new Certificate of Occupancy. We have another post explaining what an Alt 1 is if you want to read more on the subject.
The Alteration Type 1 application will be reviewed by the DOB and will take some time to complete. It will not be approved without the Certificate of No Harassment, but in order to move things along you can file the Alt 1 and get the ball rolling before the Certificate is obtained. Of course, there is the risk of the Certificate being held up or not acquired, but luckily I have yet to encounter this issue.
Renovate the Building
Once the Alteration Type 1 is approved, the Contractor can pull permits and begin the building renovation. The architect will help you through this process. There will be inspections and logistics to deal with, and, of course, general construction issues. Make sure to hire a good team for your project.
SRO properties can have many problems, but some are in good condition. The building must be brought up to code and comply with all applicable NYC regulations. The architectural and engineering team will assess and direct on those issues.
Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy
Once you pass all the inspections and the architect submits the final signoff paperwork you will receive a new Certificate of Occupancy from the DOB. Once you receive the CofO, your building will no longer have an SRO status and will officially be a single family home. We have another post explaining what a Certificate of Occupancy is if you want to learn more.
SRO Conversion to One Family Home
You can convert an SRO property into a single family home, but there is a process to it that must be followed. You will need an architect to assess the building and design the alteration, as well as file an Alteration type one application with the Department Of Buildings in order to obtain a new certificate of Occupancy.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on The Process for Converting an SRO to Single Family in NYC
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us directly.
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 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.