The Daily Dirt: With 421a stalemated, lawmaker pitches public housing

Budget talks to drag into next week

New York Lawmakers Talk Housing Deal in State Budget
Andrea Stewart Cousins, Carl Heastie and Kathy Hochul (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Womp womp. 


State budget negotiations are roaring along, but the chances of a housing deal coming together before the end of the week do not look good.


Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she thinks a final budget agreement is “within reach” but proposed temporarily extending the budget deadline to April 4.


On housing issues, it feels like we’ve been treading water for months. Remember last June, when lawmakers said they reached an agreement on a California-like good cause eviction policy? California’s Tenant Protection Act caps rent increases at 10 percent, or 5 percent plus the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower.


The June 2023 New York deal, of course, fell through. Here we are in March 2024, and negotiations on that issue seem to be back to where they were then. Politico reports that a version of good cause with a higher rent cap, and an ability for localities to opt out, is on the table.


Moving forward on that almost certainly depends on a broader housing package coming together. A replacement for the property tax break 421a is a big part of that, and the Real Estate Board of New York and construction unions have not been able to reach an agreement on wage requirements for the program.


Several unions on Wednesday called on lawmakers to intervene in 421a negotiations, according to City & State. That doesn’t seem to be happening in earnest yet.


Some lawmakers, however, are trying to move away from relying on private development. Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat who has pushed for prevailing wages as part of a new 421a, is adding her own proposal to the mix: the Jobs and Housing Act.


The bill calls for $1 billion in state funding to build affordable rentals and limited equity-co-ops on state land or rehab existing properties. Private developers could apply for the money if they meet several program requirements, including paying prevailing wages to construction and building service workers and setting rents for all units at affordable rates (generally ranging from 30 percent to 165 percent of the area median income).


The program would prioritize building on state-owned land and be overseen by the state’s housing agency, which will compile a list of available sites and rank them based on feasibility on area needs.


“I’m trying to fill a void where we as New Yorkers have historically felt very dependent on the developer class to deliver on affordable housing,” Ramos said.


As with other proposals focused on publicly led development, including the Social Housing Authority bill and a pitch to reboot the Mitchell-Lama program, the reach of the “Jobs and Housing Act” would be limited. There is only so much state-owned land. These programs would also be competing for limited capital funding, not just for their creation but for long-term maintenance of properties. 

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Ramos acknowledged that one program will not solve the housing crisis. 


“The situation is so dire that all tools should be on the table,” she said. 


Will a new 421a emerge as one of those tools in this budget? In this session?

What we’re thinking about: The first Rent Guidelines Board meeting of the year is Thursday. What should we expect from the board this year? Send a note to


A thing we’ve learned: Jay Badame, who led AECOM’s construction management operations, is suing his former company, blaming his firing on age discrimination and his raising the alarm about the company inflating profits. The firm said it disagrees with the claims.


Elsewhere in New York…


—  The MTA board on Wednesday gave its final approval of congestion pricing, but the future of the tolling plan will depend on a number of pending lawsuits, Gothamist reports. Absent delays from those cases, vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street during the daytime will be charged $15, beginning in June. 


— The city launched a pilot program Monday to distribute preloaded debit cards to migrants to buy food, baby supplies and other necessities. The Adams administration defended the program Tuesday, saying it saves money (compared with the city providing meals) and has safeguards to prevent fraud, Politico New York reports. So far, 10 families have received the cards, and the pilot will eventually include 115.


— Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Walmart heir Jim Walton gave more than $2 million to a charter school campaign fund, the Times Union reports. Bloomberg gave $1.5 million and Walton $750,000 to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, which represents StudentsFirstNY.


Closing Time

Residential: The priciest sale on Wednesday was $14.8 million for a 5,300-square-foot condominium unit at 1 West End on the Upper West Side.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was $38 million for a 78,000-square-foot building that was used as a religious dorm at 97 Claremont Avenue in Morningside Heights.

New to the Market: The highest price for a residential property hitting the market was $22.9 million for a multifamily townhouse in the West Village. Christopher Riccio and Elana Zinoman of Douglas Elliman have the listing. 

Breaking Ground: The largest new building filing of the day was a 23,300-square-foot, 11-unit residential building at 710 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg. Francisco Nunez of Studio Gallos filed the permits. — Matthew Elo