The NY State legislative session ends on June 2nd, meaning that there is a small window in which to include any of the housing policies that were left out of the enacted budget. Governor Hochul and the Legislature adopted a new 5-year statewide affordable housing plan in April but there is more that Albany can do to help address NYC’s housing crisis.
It isn’t often that there are off-budget solutions that will have a big impact on our affordable housing crisis but that is the case for all of the following bills, which will help address a variety of challenges facing NYC.
NYC PUBLIC HOUSING PRESERVATION TRUST (A7805C/S9409): The conditions facing NYCHA residents are unconscionable and the future of the housing stock is in question when capital repairs amount to $40B, growing by ~$1B more each year. While PACT has been successful in raising $3.4B, this plan for conversion only covers one third of NYCHA units. The Trust bill, sponsored by Housing Chair AM Cymbrowitz and Sen. Salazar allows for capital repairs for 25,000 units and a path forward for the remainder.
Specifically, the bill allows for the creation of a Public Preservation Trust — a public entity — that will partner with NYCHA to address the needed repairs. The Trust would be able to access federal funding through tenant protection vouchers (TPVs), while maintaining tenant rights, NYCHA ownership and management. By leveraging these vouchers, the Trust could raise the capital needed to make repairs before it is too late. Tenants will be able to vote on whether they want their buildings to be leased to the Trust.
NYCHA is nearing a cliff where repair costs exceed the cost of replacement and conditions make buildings uninhabitable. Washington has not delivered on federal funds and it is time that NY acts haste to preserve public housing. After a number of revisions, the Assembly version is currently in the Ways and means Committee and a Senate version was been introduced this morning (5/25). We urge the Legislature to support this important legislation and set NYCHA on the path to full restoration.
AFFORDABILITY PLUS (S2731/A3669) modernizes HPD lending authority: The NYC Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD) uses loans and grants to produce and preserve affordable housing throughout the city. This bill sponsored by Housing Chairs Sen. Kavanagh and AM Cymbrowitz, will modernize HPD’s lending authority in a way that makes sense for the housing market of today. The changes which include allowing the agency to:
- Give longer loan terms and extensions on existing loans, while providing more flexibility to HPD when it comes to the amount of the loans. (This is crucial given that loans are currently generally capped at 30 years and at amounts too low to cover the costs of repairs in NYC today.)
- Loans for ground leases & non-owners like trusts, whereas currently, most loans can only be made to homeowners themselves unless HPD is lending on government property using UDAAP authority. With all the interest and growth in the CLT movement in the city, this is a major obstacle.
- Lend for acquisition and refinancing, as well as in situations where HPD does not have another lender on the project.
- Expand what loans can cover, including climate resiliency improvements and non-residential portions of sites like daycare centers, parks and rec centers.
We urge support of this bill to set NYC’s next housing plan on the track and allow for alignment with industry standards and community needs.
HOTEL CONVERSION REGULATORY RELIEF (A6262A/S4937C) This bill, also sponsored by Housing Chairs Sen. Kavanaugh and AM Cymbrowitz, allows for the regulatory relief needed to make some hotel conversions reality by amending the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law to allow hotels to be used as affordable housing while retaining their existing Certificates of Occupancy. The legislation follows similar existing law regarding SRO hotels and light industry loft conversions, and it includes assurances for affordability with permanent regulatory agreements. It also confines conversions to those near existing residential communities.
It’s important to note that this opportunity won’t last forever, and we are already behind the ball.
During the pandemic, government agencies in California, which faces a similar housing affordability crisis as NY, prioritized the creation of housing opportunities (instead of temporary shelters as was done in NYC). The state passed regulatory relief and allocated funding that helped convert 103 hotels, motels, and commercial properties into housing, creating 4,863 permanent units for a total of 8,264 residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness. By following the lead of California, New York can make it easier for developers to respond to changes to the market brought on by Covid-19’s impact. We commend the Senate on its passing of the bill and are hopeful that the Assembly will follow. NYHC signed onto a letter of support with Gateway and other housing groups. This bill represents the last chance to act on hotel conversions to help address our homelessness crisis. We ask all NYC members of the Legislature to co-sponsor.
BASEMENT UNIT LEGALIZATION BILL (A9802/S8783) We can no longer choose to either pretend that unaccounted-for, illegal housing units don’t exist or enforce them into the shadows. We saw the catastrophic effects of this approach last September when 11 of our neighbors died as a result of flooding in their homes caused by Hurricane Ida. Many of these tenants may have refrained from reporting unsafe conditions because doing so could mean eviction from one of the few affordable homes available in New York. These same factors led to basement apartment tenants being forced out of their homes in 2020, even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, and an eviction moratorium was in place. The only way to ensure that tenants are able to report unsafe conditions and access basic tenant protections is through legalization.
This bill, sponsored by Sen. Kavanagh and AM. Epstein, will allow the city to create a program that makes tenants safer, gives homeowners more financial freedom and bring thousands of affordable homes to market. Specifically, the legislation would allow NYC to create an amnesty program for the many safe but currently illegal basement units while helping bring others up to code. This bill is a win-win for renters and homeowners who seek safe basement rentals.
Here is a downloadable summary of NYHC end of session priorities for NYS legislators.