ALBANY — Addressing New York’s housing crisis is central to Governor Hochul’s proposed state spending plan, but Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have vastly different ideas about how to address the problem.
Both houses of the Democratic-led Legislature released their own budget proposals Tuesday, rejecting several aspects of the governor’s sweeping plan to push for the development of 800,000 new housing units over the next decade.
The proposals reject the governor’s plan to require new housing and set construction targets statewide, as well as Hochul’s plan to allow a state panel to override local zoning decisions.
Instead, lawmakers want to provide $500 million as incentives to encourage new development in suburban areas where resistance to the governor’s bill has grown.
“I believe these modifications will lower costs, improve our quality of life, and keep Nassau County residents safe,” said Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Nassau). “After listening to voters, we are instead proposing an increase in state assistance to incentivize municipalities to achieve realistic target housing goals.”
Both houses also support tenant protection in the form of eviction for good cause and a long-sought voucher program aimed at helping struggling New Yorkers stay current on rent.
Good cause would give tenants a defense against wrongful evictions and the right to challenge unreasonable rent increases, defined as more than 3% or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index.
Both chambers’ budget proposals would provide $250 million for the Housing Access Voucher Program, which would provide rental subsidies to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Housing advocates and renters applauded lawmakers for including a good cause and the voucher program in their budget plans.
“These measures will equip renters with a powerful toolbox to fight for safe and decent living conditions and ultimately hold the worst landlords in the state to account,” said Cea Weaver, coordinator of the Housing Justice for All campaign. “They will help put a roof over the heads of tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are stuck in shelters or on the streets right now. And they will keep New York safer and healthier in the long run.”
Supporters of the good cause measure say the fight to put the protection in the budget is more important than even after judges struck down local laws in Albany and Poughkeepsie in recent months.
“As budget negotiations continue, lawmakers should remember that Governor Hochul’s housing plan did not include any tenant protections, and it is now up to both the Senate and the Assembly to act, answer the cries of their constituents, and see that these necessary bills finally become law. said Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit,
Others say the Legislature missed the mark in rejecting Hochul’s ambitious housing plans and should reevaluate his proposals.
Under the governor’s plan, southern areas of the state, including Westchester, Putnam, and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, will be required to increase their housing stock by 3% every three years.
Upstate cities would have to meet a growth target of 1% every three years.
Projects with affordable housing components that are denied a permit in municipalities that are not meeting their growth targets may be eligible for state-backed “fast track” approval.
The governor also wants to see more multi-residential projects near MTA train and subway stations. His proposal requires municipalities with MTA train stations to rezone areas within a half-mile of a station to allow for at least 25 homes per acre.
While opponents have painted the plan as a top-down approach, Open New York policy director Andrew Fine said the incentives aren’t enough to spark new development in areas that resist change.
“Faced with the first real pro-housing bill we’ve seen at the state level in decades, this is the legislature making empty statements about the housing crisis, and then essentially ignoring it, closing its eyes and hoping it will go away,” he said. .
Hochul and legislative leaders will now negotiate the final details of the budget before the state’s fiscal deadline of April 1.