Office Tower —> Housing Solution? Wishful Thinking! . . . How Come?

view of people standing on balconies on office buildings.
This scene was created by and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

If you kinda squint in the shaded canyons of downtown high rise commercial buildings, you can easily see how much, on the outside, they can resemble high rise HOUSING towers.

Alas, the ‘inside story,’ more often than not, is an effectively impossible dream-turned-nightmare. That’s not necessarily discouraging the ever-hopeful that include city Councils in the US. Councils that are also faced with the prospect of empty downtowns, and depleted tax revenues, as the empty office crisis surpasses the records set in 1979.

CNN offers four reasons why converting many of the glass skyrise towers into homes isn’t feasible:

    • Zoning: Change regulations with a stroke of the pen? Not likely. Modern cities have evolved to separate locations for commerce, industry and housing. Play fast and loose with zoning and someone, if not everyone, will sue.
    • Home Location Desires: Many people don’t want to live in hollowed out, boarded-up downtowns.
    • Inappropriate Building design: Sure, you can hike outwards from the sun-scarce gloom of a former office building’s deep interior, but chances are all the window seats will be taken by ‘luxury apartments’ that gobble up the exterior views. And more often than not, the windows won’t open.
    • Existing long-term commercial tenants: these may, for their own selfish reasons, have no incentive to shift from their lengthy leaseholds. But they may occupy enough of the building to thwart massive remodelling investments.

Read more about these disincentives to remodel modern commercial buildings into rental housing or condo ownership, at CNN: Can we turn all those empty office buildings into housing?