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Leaders of Hochul-Adams 'New' New York Panel Push Legislature to Support Housing Proposals in State Budget

The Governor, Mayor, ABNY leaders, Richard Buery & Dan Doctoroff (photo: Governor's Office)

As final negotiations over the state budget take place in Albany, a panel of experts convened by Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams are urging the State Legislature to support a series of proposals to tackle the state’s immense need for new housing. 

In June 2022, the governor and mayor assembled the 'New' New York panel of more than 50 experts and leaders across labor, business, academic, nonprofit, and philanthropic circles to advise them on the future of the city and state. The panel was co-chaired by Richard Buery, CEO of Robin Hood and former deputy mayor under Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Daniel Doctoroff, former CEO of Sidewalk Labs and a deputy mayor under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

In December, the panel and the Hochul and Adams administrations released an action plan with 40 proposals to revive New York City’s business districts, improve mass transit and public realm infrastructure, boost housing supply, increase workforce participation, and broadly bolster economic development. 

The housing proposals included in the plan are essential to the governor’s “Housing Compact” to create 800,000 homes over the next decade and the mayor’s separate, but related, plan to build 500,000 homes in the city in that same time. But the governor’s ambitious plan, which she released in January, has met with significant resistance, including from the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Buery and Doctoroff urged Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to support proposals aimed at addressing the state’s housing shortage. The letter was co-signed by 17 other members of the ‘New’ New York panel.

“As leaders of the New York State Legislature, you understand better than anyone the severity of New York City’s housing crisis,” the letter reads. “We are writing to urge the Legislature to meet this crucial moment with thoughtful and fair-minded policy that both unlocks New York City’s housing potential and helps secure our collective economic future.”

Buery and Doctoroff emphasized that the recovery of business districts, “the fiscal foundation of our entire state,” depends on ensuring that workers have ample and stable housing. “Without this, companies will hesitate to locate in New York and we will lose out on jobs and tax revenue,” they wrote.  

They called on the Legislature to embrace the governor’s wide-ranging Housing Compact, “a common sense and achievable plan, which sets goals for communities but allows each village, town and city to tailor solutions for how to grow based on local needs.” In their respective one-house budget resolutions, the Democratic majorities in the State Senate and Assembly agreed with the governor’s proposal to set targets for regional housing growth but stripped out mandates and enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the Legislature proposed $500 million in incentives to encourage local housing creation, an approach that has failed in other states. But legislative leaders have indicated they are open to negotiations with Hochul to get to a final compromise that takes on the housing crisis. 

“We all deserve more choices for where and how we live. The old system of only offering incentives to build has not worked,” Buery and Doctoroff wrote in their letter. “Now is the time for a new path to building more units to ensure that New Yorkers have access to housing—and for every community to do its part.”

Spokespeople for Stewart-Cousins and Heastie did not respond to a request for comment on the letter from Buery and Doctoroff.

Among the more specific proposals they are pushing for is passage of legislation to eliminate the floor-area ratio (FAR) cap on residential buildings in the city, which would allow for denser development and consequently more affordable housing.

The state must also make it easier, they wrote, to convert underutilized office buildings into housing. In her budget, Hochul proposed expanding the types of buildings that are eligible for conversion while also floating a tax incentive for conversions that include a certain amount of affordable housing. The Adams administration has been supportive of both proposals. 

Both the governor and mayor have argued that a crucial aspect to their housing plans is a replacement of the 421-a affordable housing tax break, which expired last year. Hochul had attempted last year to put forward a modified alternative program, called 485-w, but it failed to get support from the Legislature. This year, Hochul did not propose a new program and instead laid the onus on lawmakers to come up with a substitute, though she is proposing an extension of 421-a eligibility for projects already in motion. 

In their letter, Buery and Doctoroff said a new tax incentive is imperative for success. “None of this will get done without it,” they wrote. “An extended period without a replacement to the prior program will mean historically low housing production at a time when everyone claims to be trying to ramp up housing production.”

The state fiscal year begins April 1, but Hochul and legislative leaders have already acknowledged that the next budget will not meet that deadline. They may pass an “extender” so state bills, including payroll, get paid while they negotiate housing and other policies.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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