Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press event where she...

Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press event where she highlighted Long Island Budget investments and the urgency of New York housing compact, at the YMCA in Patchogue, Thursday, March 2, 2023. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reboot of her plan to combat a housing affordability crisis is being met with some support across the state, but skepticism remains on Long Island, where elected officials helped sink her original proposal.

Hochul’s first “housing compact” to build 800,000 housing units over the next decade was shot down in March by the State Legislature amid opposition from some local government officials. That first plan would have required annual bench marks for housing growth, provided $250 million to pay for new roads and municipal services, and carried a big stick: A state board could overrule local zoning laws to break down barriers to new apartments and houses.

Hochul’s plan announced Tuesday in Brooklyn has the same goals — including 3% annual growth in housing on Long Island, in New York City and Westchester County. She said she intends to make housing more affordable statewide to spur economic growth, attract employers and curb the exodus of young New Yorkers and retirees. She also seeks to open the door for minority groups in mostly white suburbs, where she said local zoning is “intended to keep people out.”

Her plan offers communities a priority in securing a piece of $650 million in discretionary funding already approved in the budget, as long as the communities prove they are working to expand housing and help speed regulatory approvals of building and environmental reviews. Those “pro-housing communities” will get priority for the community development funds over communities that don’t increase housing stock.

“Long Island is an incredible place to live, work and raise a family, and these executive actions are the first step in making sure it stays that way for future generations,” Hochul told Newsday. “Sky-high housing costs on Long Island and across New York are forcing residents to pack up and leave the communities that raised them.”

There is no estimate of how many units the new approach may produce without the power to override local zoning.

“This will be a challenge with just incentives, because other states have said it didn’t work,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, the state commissioner of homes and community renewal, in an interview with Newsday.

One change that could be directed by the governor is to develop vacant or underused state parcels for housing.

No state properties on Long Island have yet been chosen for housing, but Hochul already plans to convert parcels at the state-owned Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill and Javits Center Site K in Manhattan, a mostly empty 1.2-acre parcel near the Javits Center.

According to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, the state owns properties on Long Island, including parcels in the Babylon, Huntington, Islip, Riverhead and Smithtown school districts, although not all may be suitable for residential use.

“There are some Long Island sites we are looking at,” Visnauskas said.

Hochul’s plan also hopes to encourage more “accessory dwelling units.” ADUs can be additions or cottage-like dwellings in single-family zones — already allowed in some communities — to provide affordable housing for another generation or for rental income.

Overall, Hochul’s plan doesn’t include state mandates, but it does create a kind of Hobson’s choice for communities that depend on state aid — act to increase housing stock or miss out on state aid.

“It doesn’t appear to pass the smell test right now,” said Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R-Malverne), who helped lead criticism of Hochul’s first housing plan. “My constituents reacted very strongly to this because, in my opinion, there was overreach by Albany into local government.”

She said towns already are building more housing units, but they are doing it through a process that provides input on traffic and other problems that can accompany increased population density.

Analysts have noted the housing crisis has emerged over recent decades as more city dwellers sought better schools, less crime and attractive landscapes in suburbs within the limited space in towns close enough to commute to cities.

“A very broad consensus with academics, business people and advocacy groups agree there is a shortage of both affordable housing and a variety of housing regardless of price,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “That is damaging in our competitiveness in recruiting and retaining particularly young workers and retired baby boomers who still have a lot to contribute to the economy even if they are not working.”

Housing analysts note there aren't many options to address the affordability crisis besides the expensive, time-consuming route of building more apartment complexes. They say that while zoning has been used to address crowding and the demand for services, it also has been used to restrict minorities from living in certain areas.

“Zoning can make it harder for newcomers, and more and more of them are people of color,” Levy said.

Opposition to Hochul’s first plan initially was from Republicans, who called it the urbanization of the suburbs that would destroy single-family neighborhoods and compound traffic, overcrowding and parking problems. But the Democratic-controlled Legislature also opposed it because lawmakers felt it was conflicted with the long-standing policy of “home rule” and lawmakers feared a “not-in-my-backyard” backlash.

Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said she finds Hochul's new proposal “distasteful” because it intends to reward communities that agree with her pro-housing plan.

“The flip side is she is punishing communities,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t like that approach.”

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said Hochul’s first plan was rejected by the Legislature “because she tried to dictate policy, rather than build a consensus."

“It's apparent that not much has changed regarding the governor's approach,” Clavin said. “I eagerly await details from the governor, and hope that she recognizes that Long Islanders demand a voice in the future of suburbia.”

Matt Cohen of the Long Island Association business group called Hochul’s new plan “a promising step forward.”

Statewide, the New York Conference of Mayors “supports the governor's approach of supporting and not mandating local actions,” said Peter Baynes, executive director of the local government lobbying group. “There is no shortage of cities and villages seeking to expand housing opportunities, and we look forward to working with the governor to make the Pro-Housing Communities program a success.”

This time, Hochul is building a coalition of unions and affordable housing advocates that have great influence with the Legislature.

“Building enough affordable housing remains one of the most intractable problems in New York and particularly here in the city,” Manny Pastreich, president of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union 32BJ chapter, said at Hochul’s Brooklyn event. “We need big, bold solutions and we need practical, get-it-done action. And the governor’s announcement today is an important example of get-it-done, make-things-happen policy.”

Hunter Gross, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, told Newsday that Hochul’s new plan is a good start, but the Legislature’s action is needed.

“I applaud Governor Hochul for doing what she can to encourage home-building,” Gross said. “We continue to see municipalities across Long Island like Huntington, Oyster Bay and many others block and deny the desperately needed affordable housing.”

In New York City, if even just a few large projects result, “It will demonstrate her commitment and get some units into the ground,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

“I think she is right to push back and show the Legislature what powers the governor can exercise,” Wylde told Newsday. “Using her discretion over expenditures to reward or punish counties and localities on the basis of their housing production is also a smart reminder of the powers a governor can wield and gives localities an excuse to stand up to NIMBY [not-in-my-backyard] opposition.”

Hochul said improving housing affordability is a priority for her tenure despite the Legislature’s rebuke in March.

“Yeah, I’ve been burned,” Hochul said Tuesday in Brooklyn. “It gets a little hot in the kitchen sometimes.” But, she added, “We will wait no longer.”

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reboot of her plan to combat a housing affordability crisis is being met with some support across the state, but skepticism remains on Long Island, where elected officials helped sink her original proposal.

Hochul’s first “housing compact” to build 800,000 housing units over the next decade was shot down in March by the State Legislature amid opposition from some local government officials. That first plan would have required annual bench marks for housing growth, provided $250 million to pay for new roads and municipal services, and carried a big stick: A state board could overrule local zoning laws to break down barriers to new apartments and houses.

Hochul’s plan announced Tuesday in Brooklyn has the same goals — including 3% annual growth in housing on Long Island, in New York City and Westchester County. She said she intends to make housing more affordable statewide to spur economic growth, attract employers and curb the exodus of young New Yorkers and retirees. She also seeks to open the door for minority groups in mostly white suburbs, where she said local zoning is “intended to keep people out.”

Her plan offers communities a priority in securing a piece of $650 million in discretionary funding already approved in the budget, as long as the communities prove they are working to expand housing and help speed regulatory approvals of building and environmental reviews. Those “pro-housing communities” will get priority for the community development funds over communities that don’t increase housing stock.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Gov. Hochul’s reboot of her plan to combat a housing affordability crisis is being met with some support across the state, but skepticism remains on Long Island.
  • Her plan offers communities a priority in securing a piece of $650 million in discretionary funding, as long as they prove they are working to expand housing.
  • Hochul says she wants to make housing more affordable statewide to spur economic growth and curb the exodus of young New Yorkers and retirees.

“Long Island is an incredible place to live, work and raise a family, and these executive actions are the first step in making sure it stays that way for future generations,” Hochul told Newsday. “Sky-high housing costs on Long Island and across New York are forcing residents to pack up and leave the communities that raised them.”

There is no estimate of how many units the new approach may produce without the power to override local zoning.

“This will be a challenge with just incentives, because other states have said it didn’t work,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, the state commissioner of homes and community renewal, in an interview with Newsday.

One change that could be directed by the governor is to develop vacant or underused state parcels for housing.

No state properties on Long Island have yet been chosen for housing, but Hochul already plans to convert parcels at the state-owned Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill and Javits Center Site K in Manhattan, a mostly empty 1.2-acre parcel near the Javits Center.

According to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, the state owns properties on Long Island, including parcels in the Babylon, Huntington, Islip, Riverhead and Smithtown school districts, although not all may be suitable for residential use.

“There are some Long Island sites we are looking at,” Visnauskas said.

Hochul’s plan also hopes to encourage more “accessory dwelling units.” ADUs can be additions or cottage-like dwellings in single-family zones — already allowed in some communities — to provide affordable housing for another generation or for rental income.

Overall, Hochul’s plan doesn’t include state mandates, but it does create a kind of Hobson’s choice for communities that depend on state aid — act to increase housing stock or miss out on state aid.

“It doesn’t appear to pass the smell test right now,” said Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R-Malverne), who helped lead criticism of Hochul’s first housing plan. “My constituents reacted very strongly to this because, in my opinion, there was overreach by Albany into local government.”

She said towns already are building more housing units, but they are doing it through a process that provides input on traffic and other problems that can accompany increased population density.

Analysts have noted the housing crisis has emerged over recent decades as more city dwellers sought better schools, less crime and attractive landscapes in suburbs within the limited space in towns close enough to commute to cities.

“A very broad consensus with academics, business people and advocacy groups agree there is a shortage of both affordable housing and a variety of housing regardless of price,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “That is damaging in our competitiveness in recruiting and retaining particularly young workers and retired baby boomers who still have a lot to contribute to the economy even if they are not working.”

Housing analysts note there aren't many options to address the affordability crisis besides the expensive, time-consuming route of building more apartment complexes. They say that while zoning has been used to address crowding and the demand for services, it also has been used to restrict minorities from living in certain areas.

“Zoning can make it harder for newcomers, and more and more of them are people of color,” Levy said.

Opposition to Hochul’s first plan initially was from Republicans, who called it the urbanization of the suburbs that would destroy single-family neighborhoods and compound traffic, overcrowding and parking problems. But the Democratic-controlled Legislature also opposed it because lawmakers felt it was conflicted with the long-standing policy of “home rule” and lawmakers feared a “not-in-my-backyard” backlash.

Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said she finds Hochul's new proposal “distasteful” because it intends to reward communities that agree with her pro-housing plan.

“The flip side is she is punishing communities,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t like that approach.”

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said Hochul’s first plan was rejected by the Legislature “because she tried to dictate policy, rather than build a consensus."

“It's apparent that not much has changed regarding the governor's approach,” Clavin said. “I eagerly await details from the governor, and hope that she recognizes that Long Islanders demand a voice in the future of suburbia.”

Matt Cohen of the Long Island Association business group called Hochul’s new plan “a promising step forward.”

Statewide, the New York Conference of Mayors “supports the governor's approach of supporting and not mandating local actions,” said Peter Baynes, executive director of the local government lobbying group. “There is no shortage of cities and villages seeking to expand housing opportunities, and we look forward to working with the governor to make the Pro-Housing Communities program a success.”

This time, Hochul is building a coalition of unions and affordable housing advocates that have great influence with the Legislature.

“Building enough affordable housing remains one of the most intractable problems in New York and particularly here in the city,” Manny Pastreich, president of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union 32BJ chapter, said at Hochul’s Brooklyn event. “We need big, bold solutions and we need practical, get-it-done action. And the governor’s announcement today is an important example of get-it-done, make-things-happen policy.”

Hunter Gross, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, told Newsday that Hochul’s new plan is a good start, but the Legislature’s action is needed.

“I applaud Governor Hochul for doing what she can to encourage home-building,” Gross said. “We continue to see municipalities across Long Island like Huntington, Oyster Bay and many others block and deny the desperately needed affordable housing.”

In New York City, if even just a few large projects result, “It will demonstrate her commitment and get some units into the ground,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

“I think she is right to push back and show the Legislature what powers the governor can exercise,” Wylde told Newsday. “Using her discretion over expenditures to reward or punish counties and localities on the basis of their housing production is also a smart reminder of the powers a governor can wield and gives localities an excuse to stand up to NIMBY [not-in-my-backyard] opposition.”

Hochul said improving housing affordability is a priority for her tenure despite the Legislature’s rebuke in March.

“Yeah, I’ve been burned,” Hochul said Tuesday in Brooklyn. “It gets a little hot in the kitchen sometimes.” But, she added, “We will wait no longer.”

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