In NYC there are different housing types. One unique example is the SRO.
What is an SRO in New York?
The term SRO stands for Single Room Occupancy. In New York City it is usually used to describe a Rooming House which falls under Section 248 of the Multiple Dwelling Law. These units are typically rented with one room containing a sink and stove with a shared bathroom in the public corridor of the building.
There are multiple terms used to describe these units:
- Single Room Occupancy
- Rooming Houses
- Furnished Rooms or Furnished Rooming House
There are other uses for the term SRO besides the “Rooming House” such as any Class B unit. In NYC a Class B unit is a residential space meant for temporary / transient use. Also, a room being rented individually within a Class A apartment is also technically an SRO. But the most common use of the term is to describe buildings and units within buildings that were converted into Rooming Houses during the Twentieth Century.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture, a Manhattan based architecture firm. The term SRO can apply to multiple types of situations including renting a room in an apartment or hotels. The most common use for SRO is to describe a Rooming House, which will be the focus of this post.
SRO Rooming Houses
In NYC multifamily residential buildings are registered with the office of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Rooming Units or SROs are often classified as Class B units with HPD. A proper apartment that is rented on a monthly basis or more will be classified as a Class A residence. A Certificate of Occupancy for these types of units will usually state “Class B”, “Rooming Units”, and sometimes just as “Rooms” or “Furnished Rooms”.
SROs mostly came out of the Great Depression, at that time property owners began to convert Townhouses / Brownstones and other types of residences into SROs. The occupants shared a bathroom in a common hallway and had a small room or sometimes two rooms for themselves. These units today, if they qualify, have been rent stabilized.
Example SRO Floor Plan
In the image below you will see a floor plan from an SRO building. This was a townhouse in Brooklyn that had been converted into SROs after the Great depression. They made four rooms per floor with one shared bathroom accessible from the shared corridor. Each room had a small stove and sink.
Today you cannot make these types of SRO Rooming Units for profit in NYC. Any existing units are grandfathered if there is documentation to prove their legal status. As an architect, I see a common trend that people are purchasing these types of buildings and converting them into Class A apartments or into one and two-family homes.
Converting SROs Into Single Family Homes: In our office, we have worked on multiple projects where we converted an SRO into a single family residence. These were all cases where a Townhouse or Brownstone was originally built as a single-family home over a hundred years ago and then converted to SROs. My clients have purchased these SRO Brownstones and hired us to convert them back to single-family as they were originally built. If you want to read more about this process we have another post on Converting SROs to Single Family Homes.
Converting SROs Into Class A Multifamily Residential: Sometimes people purchase SRO properties in order to convert them to Class A Apartments. This requires renovating the space, bringing it up to code, and obtaining a new Certificate of Occupancy. We have another post if you are interested in reading more about the process of Converting SROs to Class A apartments.
Certificate of No Harassment
In order to convert a building out of SRO status or to do any type of significant alterations to an SRO the owner must obtain a Certificate of No Harassment from HPD, Housing Preservation and Development. This Certificate is meant to verify that the owner did not harass any of the tenants living within the SRO units in order to motivate them to leave the building so that the landlord can perform alterations. The NYC DOB, Department of Buildings will not issue permits to convert an SRO without this document.
SROs in New York
SRO Rooming Houses are a unique type of residential unit in New York. They are quickly being converted to other forms of uses within the city and I believe in time there will be little to no SRO Rooming Houses left in the city.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Single Room Occupancy, SROs in New York.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture 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 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.