Artist Loophole, Long-Overlooked, Now Smearing Swanky Soho

soho cobblestones Artist Loophole, Long Overlooked, Now Smearing Swanky SohoIt was the artists who made modern-day Soho, and it looks like the artists will be the ones to unmake it as well.

The city has begun enforcing a little-known law, at least to those living beyond Soho’s tony cobblestoned confines, that requires these now-multimillion dollar homes to be occupied by actual working artists. You know, the now nearly extinct kind who could never afford them these days.

Despite some very thorough reporting, The Times could not get a straight answer from anyone as to why, after decades of looking the other way, the city had stopped effectively rubber-stamping new Soho residents as artists. Easiest answer? Blame the housing bust.

Yet it is considerably more complicated than that. Two judges at the Department of Cultural Affairs are responsible for approving all “artists.” (Does high finance count as art? What about film production or hotel construction?) Unexpectedly, over the last year, more people have been denied than approved, jeopardizing huge deals.

Meanwhile, the city’s Department of Buildings has essentially ignored a provision that requires a building be fully occupied by artists, at least one in each apartment, to receive a certificate of occupancy. Though some residents, such as Andre Balazs and Bon Jovi, have, according to The Times, filed for and receieved artist certification, many buildings remain occupied by “non-artists.” The DOB’s response has been simply to file temporary certificates of occupancy, without which no one could legally live in the lofts. Might this practice be changing as well?

Still, it is not as though the Donald Judd types that made the neighborhood a hit will benefit from the sudden changes, either, despite decades of protest. (For what it’s worth, Judd could probably still afford a place in Soho, were he still alive.)

Prices have come down, such as at 158 Mercer Street, where an $8.5 million loft recently lost an offer at the asking price because of caution on the part of the buyer’s attorney. The loft now languishes on the market at $6.9 million.

Not exactly Bushwick prices.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo