Long Island has produced far too few housing units to serve the needs of the New York metro area, and state policymakers should pass housing reforms next year to boost affordable options, advocates from across the region said Tuesday.
Lawmakers and activists who spoke at the Manhattan event, held by the magazine City & State, repeatedly pointed to Nassau and Suffolk counties' shortcomings in approving new development.
"We don’t build enough of all kinds of housing as a result of exclusionary zoning and land-use practices. The suburbs, in particular, are not doing their part,” said Annemarie Gray, a former housing adviser to Mayor Eric Adams and executive director of Open New York, a pro-housing group. “We have a regional transit system. We have a regional economy. We don’t plan for housing opportunity at a regional level.”
Among 31 counties in the tristate area around New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties issued the fewest building permits per capita from 2010 to 2020, according to the Regional Plan Association. Suffolk ranked 31st, with 7.4 permits issued per 1,000 people. Nassau was 30th, at 7.8.
What to know
- Long Island isn’t producing enough new affordable housing units, advocates from across the New York metro area said.
- Nassau and Suffolk ranked last among 31 counties in the tristate area in building permits issued per capita from 2010 to 2020.
- Gov. Kathy Hochul says next year's budget will include a statewide housing agenda. Last year, she faced opposition from suburban lawmakers over a proposal to override local zoning rules to increase housing options.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hudson County, New Jersey, which includes Jersey City, led all counties at 64.7 permits per 1,000 people. That’s about eight times the rate on Long Island.
“We can really learn that lesson from New Jersey,” said Moses Gates, RPA’s vice president for housing and neighborhood planning.
The discussion on Tuesday served as a preview for debates that are likely to surface between Gov. Kathy Hochul and suburban legislators over the best way to promote affordable housing in next year’s budget.
Hochul hinted last week, without offering specifics, that she will be unveiling a statewide housing agenda in her State of the State address in early January. She said inadequate housing is holding back the economy on Long Island, where the unemployment rate was 2.2% in October.
“We have a situation where people have a job waiting for them in a place like Long Island or parts of New York City or the downstate area,” Hochul said at a separate event last week. “The jobs are waiting for them. They can’t find housing.”
One of Hochul’s proposals last year — to override local zoning rules to allow homeowners to create accessory dwelling units on their property — met fierce opposition from Long Island lawmakers and wasn’t included in the state budget. Accessory dwelling units include apartments in basements and above garages.
One viewpoint that wasn’t aired at the City & State event was that of New Yorkers who oppose development. Complaints about potential overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure to support more people helped defeat Hochul’s proposal on accessory dwelling units last year.
Accessory dwelling units are an important type of housing for Long Island, said Dan Lloyd, founder and president of Minority Millennials, a Long Island nonprofit that advocates for more affordable housing. Lloyd previously lived in an illegal accessory dwelling unit in an extension on a single-family house.
"It's just creating affordable housing for apartment-style rentals that are not four, five or six stories. It's all different styles that can fit or be retrofitted on the suburban landscape," Lloyd said at the event Tuesday. “I generally do not think single-family homeowners would be against the concept of more affordable rentals if it didn’t look like it was becoming urbanized.
New York City and the northern New Jersey suburbs have produced a disproportionate amount of the region’s new housing units, said Ingrid Gould Ellen, director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University.
Land-use reform, which affects where developers can build housing, "could unlock the creation of hundreds of thousands of additional units and open up more housing choice and opportunity for New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” she said.
Other states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon, have all passed laws in recent years to promote housing production in high-cost suburban areas by reforming zoning and approval rules, she said.
Jay Martin, executive director of the city landlord trade group CHIP, said the property owners he represents support legislation that would lead to more accessory dwelling units.
“We have to convince suburbanites that it is an economic benefit to them,” he said. "They have the highest property taxes in the entire country in Westchester and Long Island. One way to afford your mortgage and pay your property taxes is to have an ADU and help provide a home in the process.”