Gov. Yimby? Hochul promises housing blitz next year

Calls New York a national leader in “blocking housing”

A photo illustration of Governor of New York Kathy Hochul (Getty)
A photo illustration of Governor of New York Kathy Hochul (Getty)

Gov. Kathy Hochul says she is ready for a fight.

Hochul promised to unveil a “bold and audacious” housing agenda next month. She did not provide details, saying she will unveil them at her State of the State speech.

But Hochul made clear that she views the next legislative session as crucial to addressing the state’s housing crisis. Her speech, at the New York Housing Conference’s annual awards ceremony, also served as a call to action for the attendees — which included various lawmakers and industry professionals — to educate communities about the need for more housing.

“There’s no kicking this can down the road,” she said. “I’m picking that can up right now.”

Last session, the governor introduced a slew of policies aimed at increasing the state’s housing stock, but most did not survive the budget negotiation process and election-year politics.

Hochul indicated Thursday that her administration would target communities and zoning policies that block housing and perpetuate segregation. Rattling off statistics, she claimed that New Jersey and Connecticut are outpacing Long Island, Westchester and other New York suburbs in housing production.

The jobs are here. But the housing is not.
Gov. KathyHochul

New York City has failed to allow enough housing, she said, and “the suburbs are even worse.”

The governor called it “morally reprehensible” that New York, with plenty of jobs available, fails to provide adequate housing opportunities for workers.

“It’s not the lack of jobs,” she said. “The jobs are here. But the housing is not.”

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A photo illustration depicting the death of the 421a property tax break (NYC Housing Preservation and Development, iStock)
New York
Dead and buried: 421a is gone. Will it ever return?
Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty, iStock)
New York
With 421a dying, apartment project financing “has come to a stop”

“We’re a national leader in blocking housing,” she said. “New York is in a league of its own in terms of restricting new housing.”

Advocates to the Democratic governor’s political left have called for the government to build “social housing” en masse and increase tenant protections by passing “good cause eviction.”

But Hochul said New York is a national leader in those areas, yet the housing problem persists.

“New York state funds more affordable housing per capita than any other state,” she said, adding that in terms of protections for tenants, “No other state comes close.”

Long Island lawmakers vehemently opposed Hochul’s push this year to require localities to allow accessory dwelling units on lots zoned for single-family housing. Even after she watered down the measure, it did not gain traction in the last legislative session.

Facing spirited challengers in the June primary and November general election, Hochul backed off — until now.

The governor is expected to try again with accessory dwelling units and also to replace the expired 421a. She previously pitched a replacement for the property tax incentive for New York City multifamily projects, renaming it 485w, but state legislators showed little interest.

During a panel discussion before Hochul’s remarks, Jessica Katz, the city’s chief housing officer, said the expirations of 421a and another tax incentive, J-51, closed off a pipeline of housing units that — compared with other complex financing programs — was the “simplest to administer.”

“Losing those two, that was painful,” she said. J-51 had largely fallen out of favor, but 421a was seen as essential to apartment projects, especially those with some affordable units.

Hochul’s executive budget this past year also pitched removing the cap on the city’s residential floor-area ratio, or FAR. This and other proposals, including changes to ease the conversions of defunct office space into housing, will likely be on the governor’s policy agenda next year.