Adams calls out Albany on 421a, launches tenant unit

Mayor’s Tenant Protection Cabinet fills gap left by dead de Blasio program

dams Flags Albany on 421a, Unveils Tenant Protection Unit
Mayor Eric Adams, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Governor Kathy Hochul, Housing Chair Linda B. Rosenthal, and Assembly Speaker. Carl Heastie (Getty, The New York State Senate, NY Assembly)

The mayor and governor agree: The state legislature must make way for a new 421a.

Mayor Eric Adams, in his third State of the City address, spotlighted Albany as he sought to drum up support for his goal to add 500,000 homes by 2033.

“We also need our state legislators to step up and deliver a plan that would change how we build from the ground up,” Adams said. “That means incentives for affordable housing development, including a new version for the 421a program.”

In her State of the State speech this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul pressured the legislature to replace the expired 421a tax abatement, without which, developers claim, rental projects in New York City do not pencil out, and extend the completion deadline for projects started under the old program.

Hochul pitched an extension of the deadline last year, as well as a new program, but neither won lawmakers’ support.

“Last year, many of the loudest voices in opposition said they believed in local control,” Hochul said. “The city of New York, which is a local government, wants to build 500,000 more homes over a decade. I agree. Let them build.”

“Governor Hochul was right in her State of the State address,” Adams said in his speech Wednesday. “And we need Albany to clear the way for the housing we need.”

In December, the Adams administration pitched a limited, city-funded, 421a-style program called the Mixed Income Market Initiative.

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The subsidy won’t be as easy to snag as 421a. The city will award it on a case-by-case basis, unlike the expired state program, which was as-of-right. Developers will also be restricted to building in “high-opportunity” neighborhoods — richer areas where the free-market rents can subsidize affordable units, of which many more are required than under 421a.

The mayor also announced the creation of a Tenant Protection Cabinet to “help more people stay in their homes they already have,” but offered few words on what it would actually do.

The cabinet would involve more than a dozen city agencies and mayoral offices focused on supporting tenants, according to a press release. Its aims are three-fold: streamline communications, better allocate resources and shape current and future services to protect tenants.

The initiative appears to be a replacement for the Tenant Protection Office, a unit created in 2019 by Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, and which was effectively on life support last year.

Though a spokesperson for the mayor said the office was still running as of April 2023, the office had not had a director for more than a year and the mayor budgeted for zero staffers in the fiscal year that began last July.

One critique of the de Blasio-era office was that its actions sometimes reiterated or clashed with those of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“They were sometimes working on the same cases as HPD, and wanted a different outcome,” a former HPD official previously told The Real Deal.

The new program seems to address that criticism by throwing more than a dozen agencies and offices in one room.

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