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Hochul will try again to win housing package in 2024

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to the media on Dec. 20, 2023.
Karen DeWitt
New York State Public Radio
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to the media on Dec. 20, 2023.

When the 2024 New York state legislative session begins in early January, one of the top issues will be tackling the state’s affordable housing crisis, and Gov. Kathy Hochul will try for a second year to convince lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive plan.

Hochul began 2023 with an ambitious plan to create 800,000 new housing units to help ease the crisis.

“Today, I say no more delay,” Hochul said on Jan. 10. “No more waiting for someone else to fix this problem. Housing is a human right.”

The plan included controversial mandatory housing quotas for localities. If the cities, towns or villages did not meet those requirements, then the state could step in and override local zoning laws.

Those ideas were a tough sell to suburban Democrats in the State Legislature, who feared backlash from constituents.

Hochul included the plan in her state budget proposal, which was due April 1. But housing talks stagnated, and when the budget was over three weeks late, the governor dropped the building requirement from the spending plan.

Recently, she said she would not revive the construction mandates in 2024. She said she knows that the proposal could be volatile in a key election year.

“I'm not going to head down the same path that we did last year with the exact same plan,” Hochul said. “In a year that is an election year for the members, where they have different focus and priorities.”

The governor’s plan also ran into roadblocks from progressives in the Legislature, who said they didn’t want to approve a housing package unless it included tenant rights protections, known as the Good Cause Eviction Act.

Assembly Housing Committee Chair Linda Rosenthal is one of the lawmakers who wanted to include the tenants rights measure. She held a hearing on housing issues earlier in December, where she said the crisis has only worsened in the past year.

Rosenthal said the number of homeless single adults is now 100% higher than it was 10 years ago, and growing numbers of people pay more than 50% of their total income for rent.

“It's abundantly clear to all of us that New York state is facing a persistent and critical shortage of affordable housing,” Rosenthal said.

The governor’s housing commissioner was invited to testify at that hearing but did not attend.

Hochul also was not successful in reviving a government-funded tax incentive for developers who included affordable housing in their projects, known as 421-a. It expired in 2021.

The governor, since the session ended last June, struck out on her own, using her executive powers to create new housing on state-owned properties. It includes rehabbing a former prison and state psychiatric center to create over 3,000 units. She’s also providing $430 million in bonds to create or preserve 1,500 new units across the state.

She said she’s ready to try again to win legislative approval of her housing plan in the new year.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.