An aerial view of a neighborhood in Mineola. Gov. Kathy...

An aerial view of a neighborhood in Mineola. Gov. Kathy Hochul had proposed the expansion of "accessory dwelling units" in her January budget proposal to the Legislature. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

ALBANY – Gov. Kathy Hochul has pulled her budget proposal to require local governments to accept an expansion of apartments and backyard cottages in single-family neighborhoods as a way to combat a statewide crisis in affordable housing, Newsday has learned.

Hochul had proposed the expansion of "accessory dwelling units" in her January budget proposal to the legislature. Since then, however, there has been strong opposition by mostly Republican officials from local governments on Long Island and by some Democrats, including Rep. Tom Suozzi and Long Island state senators. Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is challenging Hochul for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Opponents argued that Hochul’s proposal would harm suburban neighborhoods by worsening parking problems and straining local services, including sewer and water facilities, while eliminating local control of zoning.

"Since my days in local government, I have believed strongly in the importance of consensus-building and listening to communities and my fellow policymakers," said Hochul, a former Erie County clerk and a suburban councilwoman, in a statement.

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State...

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State address, during which she discussed accessory dwelling units, on Jan. 5.   Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

"I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach on accessory dwelling units," she said. "I understand that my colleagues in the State Senate believe a different set of tools is needed, even if they agree with the goal of supporting the growth of this kind of housing. So I am submitting a 30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities in order to facilitate a conversation about how we build consensus around solutions."

"I am glad she removed this radical policy from the budget, but she should have never added it in the first place, " Suozzi said.

The governor also said she will continue part of the ADU proposal: bringing units located in New York City into compliance with building and safety codes. Many of the units in the city and in suburbs were built without local approval and are believed to have safety concerns.

In September, several New Yorkers died in flooding of basement apartments during the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The ADU proposal had faced an uncertain future in the State Legislature. Democrats have supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly and Republicans wouldn't be able to stop the proposal. In addition, governors have extraordinary constitutional power to ultimately force the State Legislature to accept either everything in the budget or risk shutting down government.

But Democrats also were wary that approval of the progressive measure would alienate their larger base of more centrist, suburban voters and put moderate Long Island senators at risk in the fall elections by providing a cudgel for Republicans, political observers said.

A bill similar to Hochul’s proposal remains active in the legislature. The bill is sponsored by two key Democratic legislators -- Sen. Pete Harckham (D-South Salem) and Assemb. Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan) -- who said they are working closely with the governor’s office.

Hochul’s decision to pull back her proposal to expand ADUs came as a surprise to those who were critical of the proposal, but it was welcomed.

"Rolling out the ADU proposal without consulting with local officials, including some in her own party, was a strategic political mistake that she is smart enough to correct before it could do more damage," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "If she continued to push it, ADUs might have become the ‘bail reform’ of 2020."

Levy referenced the progressive measure to eliminate cash bail on a list of crimes so that poor defendants wouldn’t be held in jail awaiting trial while someone accused of the same crime who could afford bail could return to their jobs, studies and families. Republicans cited some cases in which defendants released under the bail law committed more crimes and used opposition to the bail law to help win several offices in the 2021 election.

Levy told Newsday that Hochul needs to encourage local governments to accept ADUs and use their success to encourage others to accept the units, sometimes called "granny flats" and "mother-daughter apartments."

Hochul said she is also pulling her proposal to expand "transit-oriented development" for further discussion with local governments.

The proposal faced less criticism but was another complex idea in her budget. Transit-oriented development is housing built close to commuter and Amtrak rail stations. The idea is to create apartments within walking distance of trains to limit or eliminate the need for residents to have cars and to help bring vitality to downtown blocks.

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