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Gov. Hochul's housing plan dropped from budget negotiations

A woman in a red outfit stands behind a lectern next to a monitor that says "The New York Housing Compact: 800,000 homes over the next decade.
Mike Groll
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul presents her Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget proposal in the Red Room at the State Capitol Feb. 1, 2023.

The state budget is more than four weeks late, and while Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers say they are still negotiating details of a number of items, there is one thing they can say for certain. There will not be any plans to address New York’s affordable housing crisis in the budget.

Hochul, in her State of the State message in January, said building more housing to ease the affordability crisis was a top priority.

“Today, I say no more delay. No more waiting for someone else to fix this problem. Housing is a human right,” Hochul said on Jan. 10. “Ensuring enough housing is built is how we protect that right.”

She unveiled a plan where localities across the state would be assigned new housing construction targets that they would have to meet, with the goal of building 800,000 new housing units over the next decade.

If municipal government leaders did not meet those targets, the state would be authorized to override local zoning laws to get the units built.

Local leaders, including in politically powerful suburban regions like Long Island and Westchester, rejected any action that would usurp local authority to design their communities. State senators and Assembly members representing suburban districts refused to support that part of the housing plan.

Hochul on April 18, when the budget was three weeks late, hinted that her housing plan might be in trouble. She said in a statement that the Legislature was continuing to “to oppose core elements” of her plan.

On Tuesday, the governor confirmed that all of the housing proposals have been removed from the budget.

“I went to Long Island, I had forums in Westchester, I sat down with elected officials who are not embracing this,” Hochul said. “From fairly early on, the Legislature showed they were not interested in the cornerstone, which was the New York compact, which is the part that was going to really make a difference.”

Hochul said that she decided to move on, in the interest of reaching a budget agreement.

“I said, ‘Let's not waste any more time on this,’” the governor said.

Hochul, an avid sports fan, cited former NHL hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

“I took the shot,” Hochul said. “At least we’re trying. And we’re not done.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who did not have the support of the majority of his Democratic members for Hochul’s plan, was diplomatic about the governor’s loss. He says there was not enough time, from when the plan was introduced in the governor’s budget in early February, to better inform stakeholders on the plan’s benefits.

“Sometimes when you want to make transformative change in policy, there has to be an education period,” Heastie said. “Letting the voters of the state understand why it needs to be done.”

Heastie says local zoning is an important issue, and many residents of cities, towns, and villages don’t want to give that up.

Further complicating the issue was the insistence by progressive Democrats in the Legislature that any final housing plan must include more rights for tenants. They back the Good Cause Eviction measure, which is opposed by landlord groups.

Hochul, Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins say they will work to come up with an affordable housing plan once the budget is finished. They hope to come to a consensus before the session ends in June.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.