Real estate winners and losers in NY legislative session

What did and didn’t pass in chaotic end to Albany’s year

State Assemblyman Carl Heastie, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Governor Kathy Hochul (Getty)
State Assemblyman Carl Heastie, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Governor Kathy Hochul (Getty)

In like a lion, out like a lamb.

After the legislature approved big real estate measures in April, it failed to get numerous other industry-related bills across the finish line before leaving Albany for the year.

But a few did pass.

In the final days of the session, lawmakers approved a bill allowing localities to tax short-term rentals such as Airbnb’s. Gov. Kathy Hochul included a similar proposal in her executive budget, but lawmakers had left it out of their spending bills.

The bill also establishes a state registry for short-term rentals. Localities that already have their own registration systems in place — New York City’s went live in September — will need to provide their information to the state each quarter, if Hochul signs the measure.

The Senate and Assembly also passed a bill that requires the Gaming Facility Location Board to recommend where three new downstate casinos should be by the end of 2025 or once all the applications have received land use and other approvals, whichever comes first. The state Gaming Commission then has 30 days to make a final decision. Both bodies, under the bill, can extend these timelines by 30 days.

An earlier version of the bill set a March 31, 2025, deadline, regardless of approvals needed by the applicants, a move that New York Focus reported would favor Resorts World in Queens and MGM’s Empire City in Yonkers, both of which are established racinos.

In a win for the Real Estate Board of New York, the legislature did not pass a controversial measure that would have capped co-op ground lease rent increases and provided shareholders with the right to renew their leases. The trade group said the measure would unconstitutionally interfere in private contracts between landowners and cooperatives and would disproportionately benefit wealthy co-op shareholders in Manhattan.

The bill appeared to gain momentum last week when an amended version emerged in the Senate. However, the Assembly did not put forward an identical bill before the session ended.

A group advocating for the bill, the Ground Lease Coop Coalition, has said that it will keep pushing for the legislation to save middle-income shareholders from exorbitant rent increases. Proponents of the bill, including the board of Carnegie House, where the ground lease is expiring in 2025, hired several lobbyists to push for its passage.

The legislature approved another co-op measure, which would allow co-op boards to renew or extend their ground lease at any point if their lease already has language allowing for renewals or extensions.

Landlords also defeated a bill inspired by Gary Barnett’s fight to remove a tenant at 1651 First Avenue.

The measure would have created more requirements to demolish rent-stabilized properties. Among other things, it would have forced building owners to get approval and financing for a replacement project before denying a lease renewal to a stabilized tenant.

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The state budget was the culmination of years’ worth of debate over numerous housing policies, but managed to disappoint real estate and tenant groups alike.

The budget included a replacement for the property tax break 421a, an extension to that program’s construction deadline, a measure to lift the city’s cap on residential density, a tax incentive for office-to-residential conversions, a relatively weak version of good cause eviction and changes to a renovation program for rent-stabilized apartments.

The Real Estate Board of New York said the replacement to 421a, dubbed 485x, would lead to less housing construction than its predecessor. Landlord groups said the changes to the Individual Apartment Improvement program were inadequate to address the distress at rent-stabilized properties. Tenant advocates objected to the exemptions in good cause eviction.

Meanwhile, the Adams administration praised the budget for including many of the mayor’s top priorities.

Lawmakers delivered another win to the mayor late last week with the passage of a bill that will give the city’s  Department of Design and Construction the ability to use alternative construction delivery, including “progressive design build” and “construction manager build.”

The methods are expected to help shave time and costs off agency projects by, respectively, consolidating the bidding process and getting construction managers involved earlier.

Hochul threw a wrench into the final three days of the session by indefinitely delaying congestion pricing just 25 days before it was to begin in Manhattan. The decision upended the MTA’s plan to spend $1 billion in annual revenue from the program on transit improvements.

Lawmakers also did not expand a pilot program for legalizing basement apartments in the city. A bill from Sen. Julia Salazar and Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas would have added four community districts to the 15 in the basement apartment program.

Though East New York hosted a basement pilot program in 2019, it was excluded from the state’s program. Salazar told City Limits that it was “counterintuitive” to exclude Community District 5 in Brooklyn.

“It’s our communities in Cypress Hills and East New York that demonstrated the need for the state to act,” she told the publication.

Preservationists fended off the Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act, which aimed to make it easier for religious organizations to build housing on their property. The measure was a priority for pro-housing group Open New York.

Annemarie Gray, the group’s executive director, said the session was “marked by a series of missed opportunities to comprehensively address New York’s housing crisis,” citing the watered-down version of good cause and the lack of action on the Faith Based Affordable Housing bill.

“While this session saw incremental progress to increase housing supply in New York City, the state ignored well-tested tools to allow all parts of the state to build more homes,” Gray said in a statement.

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