In her State of the State today, Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a bold new $25 billion, 100,000-unit, 5-year housing plan (SOTS page 125). We thank Governor Hochul for putting forward a plan to increase affordability, sustainability and equity in New York. We will be closely following the budget proposal to be released later this month to ensure sufficient capital funding is allocated.
In our recommendations produced last month in coalition with 16 partner organizations, we call for $6 billion in capital investment. See our op ed on the state housing plan published last week in the Buffalo News.
Governor Hochul incorporated many of our recommendations to expand supply of affordable and supportive housing in both rural and urban areas, increase access to affordable homeownership, address land use barriers, ease restrictions to allow hotel conversions and supporting accessory dwelling unit (ADU) legalization.
The new housing plan will be designed using a four-part framework of economic recovery, social justice, climate action, and digital connectivity. It will draw on existing New York State programs and create new ones, including the following: 1. Create and Preserve 100,000 Low-Income Rental and Co-Operative Housing Units in Both Urban and Rural Communities
- Create and Preserve 10,000 Supportive Housing Units: The plan will create 7,000 units of supportive housing and preserve 3,000 units over the next five years to prevent homelessness and serve vulnerable and at-risk populations, including homeless veterans and their families; victims of domestic violence; elderly seniors; young adults with histories of incarceration, homelessness, or foster care; chronically homeless individuals and families; individuals with intellectual or development disabilities; individuals re- entering the community from prison; and people living with HIV or AIDS, serious mental illness, and/or substance use disorders.
- Build and Preserve Senior Housing Across the State: $300 million will be invested in the new construction and preservation of senior housing through capital improvements and extending affordability to maintain this important supply of housing.
- Weatherize and Electrify New York’s Housing Stock: The Housing Plan includes $250 million in addition to anticipated federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to electrify 50,000 units through the plan. The plan will also invest in other initiatives to weatherize and electrify New York’s housing stock. Projects will promote all- electric, high-performance equipment for heating; high-performance, airtight building envelopes that maintain interior temperatures to reduce the need for space heating and air-conditioning; alternative energy sources, such as geothermal heat pumps, onsite solar panels, and heat recovery ventilation; and other energy-efficient best practices.
- Pilot a Program to Create Affordable Homeownership Projects That Prioritize Resident Control and Permanent Affordability: This pilot will solicit projects through a competitive Request for Proposals process and will allow for a variety of ownership models including, but not limited to: limited equity coops (Mitchell-Lama model), shared equity housing, and community land trusts. All applications will need projects to be permanently affordable; to include a clear mechanism for residents of the housing project to be involved in the governance structure and long-term operation of the housing projects; and to be designed to serve to low-and-moderate income households in the community in which they are located. The intent of this pilot program is to expand the number of permanently affordable, community-controlled units within New York State. A successful pilot program could lead to the creation of a large-scale program in the future, expanding affordable homeownership options for even more New Yorkers.
- Pilot a Program to Spur Innovation in Affordable Housing: This program will support projects that take a dramatic new approach to construction in an effort to reduce costs. Innovative construction projects for the pilot could include approaches such as modular net-zero housing production, multi-family buildings using mass timber framing, and construction utilizing 3D printing, among others.
- Improve the Housing Stock of Rural Rental Properties: Programs will preserve and improve multifamily rental buildings; support farm worker housing; and preserve and invest in the manufactured and mobile home stock statewide (especially in rural areas), protecting valuable affordable housing for New York’s rural residents.
2. Promote Housing Affordability by Expanding the Housing SupplyTo help reduce housing costs across the state, Governor Hochul will propose a set of legislative actions and targeted interventions to encourage development of housing supply in areas with high need and capacity. .
- Encourage the Creation of Safe Accessory Dwelling Units by proposing legislation to require municipalities to allow a minimum of one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on owner- occupied residentially zoned lots. This legislation would allow municipalities to set minimum and maximum size requirements that both meet safety standards but will not prevent reasonable new construction. In New York City, this legislation will require the creation of an amnesty program to legalize existing ADUs, with an expectation that they be brought into compliance with key building code requirements to ensure resident safety, but also provide some flexibility for the City to exempt some units from specific Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) provisions without further New York State legislation. The Housing Plan will include capital funding for municipalities or non-profits to assist in the legalization or creation of new ADUs.
- Spur Transit-Oriented Development: There are roughly 120 municipalities across New York with access to commuter or long-distance rail stations connected to the Amtrak, Metro-North, or Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) transit systems. To spur transit-oriented development, the Governor will propose legislation to foster multifamily construction in zones drawn by municipalities around rail transit stops within commuting distance to New York City. The State will provide assistance to municipalities for drafting the ordinance changes, easing the burden on smaller municipalities. This action will expand housing options and job access for New Yorkers while reducing their need to own a car and minimizing traffic impacts.
- Give the City of New York Authority to Encourage Densification: Existing New York State law limits the maximum density of residential floor area ratio (FAR) in New York City to 12.0, even though it does not limit the overall allowable floor area that may comprise other uses. Governor Hochul will propose a repeal of this limitation on the City’s authority, and give the City the autonomy to allow for denser residential development where appropriate.
- Ease Restrictions on Converting Hotels and Offices to Residential Uses through legislation to facilitate conversions:
- Hotel Conversions: Any Class B hotel located within (or within 800 feet of) a residential zoning district can use the existing certificate of occupancy for permanent residences, as long as the units are subject to applicable rent stabilization laws and agreements. Alterations must follow regulations for Class B hotels.
- Office Conversions: Removal of the 12.0 maximum residential FAR in New York City, will support the conversion of office buildings to residential use (while also supporting housing production). Additionally, until December 2027, office-to-residential conversions of buildings constructed before 1980 or any applicable buildings located south of 60th Street in Manhattan may be allowed. The legislation will also ease conversion through waivers of specific regulations.
- End the 421-a Tax Abatement and Establish a New Program to achieve these goals:
- Create deeper affordability serving lower income households than 421- a.
- Create longer-term affordability to provide more stability for low-income households.
- Ensure long-term availability of affordable rental units in neighborhoods across the city.
- Restructure the tax abatement to ensure maximum efficiency of taxpayer dollars.
- Align with city and state climate goals by requiring carbon-neutral technologies, electrification, and electrification-ready building systems.
- Allow flexibility to enable construction of financially viable smaller buildings.
- Create an all-affordable homeownership option to promote low- and moderate-income homeownership opportunities across the city.
3. Expand Housing Access and Equity to Keep More New Yorkers in Homes To improve housing access and equity, Governor Hochul will propose two pieces of legislation designed to protect New Yorkers at risk of discrimination based on conviction or credit status.
- Improve Housing Access for Renters with Justice Involvement or Negative Credit Histories
- A Credit to New York: This legislation will prohibit residential landlords from automatically denying applicants on the basis of credit history or score if the applicant can demonstrate: (1) evidence of on-time, in-full rental payments for the 12 months preceding the application or 12 months preceding March 2020, (2) that they receive one or more rental subsidies that will pay their rent in full directly to the landlord, or (3) that the negative credit history or poor credit score is solely due to unpaid student loan or medical debt. If the landlord intends to deny an applicant because of their credit score or history, they must notify the applicant in writing and give the applicant five days to provide evidence of the above.
- Fair Chance Housing: This legislation will eliminate a private landlord’s ability to automatically reject individuals with justice involvement and will require housing providers to conduct individualized assessments that account for the circumstances of a conviction and evidence of rehabilitation while still ensuring the safety and welfare of existing residents.
- Create an Eviction Prevention Legal Assistance Program to Improve Housing Stability: The Eviction Prevention Legal Assistance Program will provide free legal assistance to upstate renters who currently cannot afford counsel in eviction proceedings. The funding would apply to renters facing eviction with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line and would be provided by local legal service providers, such as the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Services of Central New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, and other organizations. Additionally, this initiative will expand the Fair Housing Testing program to provide additional fair housing testing and education throughout the state, including in counties not previously served by local fair housing organizations. This expansion will allow counties to respond to many more complaints and to proactively conduct testing on suspected systemic discrimination, in support of the New York State’s larger anti-discrimination initiatives.
- Make Financing More Accessible and Affordable for Manufactured Homes: Manufactured homes provide an affordable housing alternative for hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income New Yorkers. However, New York law prevents owners of manufactured homes from obtaining traditional mortgages, making purchasing more complicated and financing more expensive. Governor Hochul will work with the Legislature to make affordable mortgage financing available to these homeowners.
- Create a Permanent Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Unit to Help Rebuild Homes: New York State is a national leader in disaster recovery and resiliency thanks to our innovative approach following Superstorm Sandy. The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s (GOSR) federal funding expires in 2023, right as the risk of severe weather events continues to grow. A permanent New York State Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Unit will be housed in Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to preserve and build on the expertise and experience gained by GOSR since 2013. This permanent unit will facilitate administration of federal funds to meet recovery needs efficiently and empowered to use State funding to bridge any gaps between federal restrictions and New York’s needs. The unit’s core focus will include:
- Scaling recovery efforts and coordinating resiliency initiatives for both major and small disasters throughout the state.
- Coordinating initial response and long-term recovery not covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency or State emergency response agencies.
- Identifying needs, deploying resources quickly and equitably, and tracking funding to all agencies after a storm.
- Managing a portfolio of pre- and post-disaster programs, particularly those focused on homeowner rebuilding efforts, resiliency upgrades for homeowners and communities, and voluntary buyout sites.
- Leveraging GOSR’s expertise in data management to build online applications.
4. Direct Action to Meet the Homelessness Crisis: Across these efforts, the State will partner with local leaders to meet the needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
- Establish Safe Options Support (SOS) Teams to Move People from Street Homelessness to Shelter and Housing: The SOS teams will embrace an evidence-based approach called Critical-Time Intervention, which deploys a team of trained mental health practitioners working with emergency shelters, outreach providers, and permanent supportive housing providers to transition individuals living on the street into stable housing. Studies have found that homeless individuals working with these teams had only one-third the number of homeless nights compared to a control group and that the impact of the teams’ work persisted for nine months after the intervention. This approach has been previously piloted in New York City, where it will be significantly expanded. The State-run SOS teams will collaborate and coordinate with New York City-run first-line outreach teams to engage street homeless individuals and help secure placement into housing programs with wraparound social services.
- Launch a Targeted Plan to Support Populations at Risk of Homelessness:
- Increase Housing Funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth: Investment in the expansion of crisis and transitional living beds will provide needed support for LGBTQ youths, who are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than other youth populations.
- Address Healthcare Issues Early for Vulnerable Youth: Legislation will create a pathway for homeless youth to consent to basic and preventive healthcare services, which can help support this vulnerable group while resulting in cost savings for the State.
- Provide Immediate Mental Health Telemedicine Access for Homeless Persons Encountered by Law Enforcement and Outreach Workers: Building off New York’s existing Office of Mental Health (OMH) Mobile Access Program, the State will equip law enforcement and outreach workers with tablets and other technology resources to expand the use of telemedicine to connect the street homeless population with mental health professionals in Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Programs (CPEPs).
- Address Poverty to Prevent Homelessness Statewide:
- Increase the amount a Public Assistance recipient can earn and the amount they can save before losing eligibility.
- Eliminate the 45-day waiting period for Safety Net Assistance benefits for individuals not eligible for Public Assistance.
We commend Governor Hochul for outlining a strategic vision for investment in affordable housing that will benefit New Yorkers across this state. However, it is important to recognize that the plan leaves out NYCHA and fails to directly address the eviction moratorium that is set to expire this month.
Absent federal investment in public housing, we call on Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams to work together to establish a long-term city-state capital plan for public housing.
We support Governor Hochul’s eviction prevention proposal to ensure a Right to Counsel to renters across the state and changes to public assistance rules, but there are hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are behind on their rent today and even more at-risk of eviction following the January 15th expiration of the moratorium. We encourage Governor Hochul to support the Housing Access Voucher Program in her Executive Budget to provide assistance to at-risk renters.