Policy Breakfast: The Proposed New York Housing Compact
On Thursday, February 9, 2023 the Furman Center hosted a Policy Breakfast titled The New York Housing Compact: Implications for NYC. The conversation explored Governor Kathy Hochul’s recently released New York Housing Compact, a comprehensive, multi-pronged framework for communities across the state to increase housing supply, with the ambitious goal of building 800,000 new units across the state in the next decade. The panelists discussed several issues covered by the first policy briefs in the Furman Center’s new series Critical Land Use and Housing Issues for New York State in 2023.
The New York Housing Compact
The Governor’s Housing Compact proposes policy solutions aimed at spurring the production of housing. First, the Governor’s Housing Compact proposes new home creation targets that municipalities must meet every three years. Localities with demand for new housing that fail to meet these targets, would then have time to adopt “Preferred Actions” that increase zoning capacity. Otherwise, housing developments that meet affordability criteria would be eligible for fast-track approval.
To encourage higher density residential development near transit, the Housing Compact calls for rezoning near MTA rail stations. It would also provide relief for those developments and developments built under the new home targets from environmental review. To support the conversion of vacant commercial lots to housing, the Governor’s proposal would end the cap on maximum density for residential floor area in New York City. The Housing Compact also aims to relieve regulation to legalize basements apartments and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), and develop a replacement for the former 421-a property tax exemption program for rental housing.
NYU Furman Center’s hybrid Policy Breakfast on the New York Housing Compact was moderated by Faculty Director Vicki Been. RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner/CEO of NY Homes and Community Renewal, kicked off the event with an overview of the Governor’s Housing Agenda. Visnauskas framed the plan as a long term approach to ensure that the crisis does not continue into the future, and described the Housing Compact as an important framework to move the state forward.
"Having a statewide policy is something we feel is important because we really feel this is a statewide issue, and that every community needs to be doing their part…But we also know that there's a lot of nuance, and as we get into this process…this will become a more fine-tuned approach to make sure we're meeting the needs across the big, diverse state that New York State is.”
After the introduction of the New York Housing Compact, the conversation turned to the panel discussion, which featured:
Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Regional Administrator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Dan Garodnick, Chair, New York City Planning Commission
Annemarie Gray, Executive Director, Open New York
Cea Weaver, Campaign Coordinator, Housing Justice For All
Watch the full event below:
The panelists agreed on the need for a statewide policy on prioritizing New York’s housing crisis. Alicka Ampry-Samuel said the plan is in line with the Biden administration’s goals and provides a vision to guide local municipalities. Similarly, Dan Garodnick said the state plan shared many aspects of the city’s proposal and praised the Governor and Mayor’s cooperation.
Some of the plan’s strengths the panelists named included the changes to restrictive zoning practices, support for accessory dwelling units, regulatory relief for converting vacant buildings into residences, and the focus on transit-oriented development.
They also offered a range of views on how the compact could be improved as it makes its way through the legislative session.
Ampry-Samuel expressed concerns over exempting some projects from environmental review and advocated for more funding to preserve public housing and existing affordable housing stock. Gray emphasized the need for better enforcement of the plan to ensure localities don’t delay projects and said the state could look to California for ideas, such as empowering nonprofits to sue. Garodnick emphasized the need for continued conversations about tax benefits to ensure that developers will be incentivized to build.
“We can work on the regulatory aspect but there’s a question of what shovels will be in what grounds without the incentives,” said Garodnick.
Weaver underscored the need for tenant protections including the right to good cause eviction, as well as rental assistance measures such as a state-level voucher program.
“There's a huge shortage of rental assistance in the State, and our existing rental assistance programs are very hard to use because they don't pay the market rent. The Housing Access Voucher Program would really help low-income New Yorkers afford some of the housing that's going to be built under the housing compact,” she said.
The panelists all agreed that delivering on the housing compact will be difficult. Garodnick noted that the growth targets would both create the most opportunity and pose the greatest challenges. This is especially true for New York City, where the city’s 59 community board districts would be subject to the 3% growth requirements.
The Furman Center reviewed the city’s permitting rate over the past 9 years to find that only a third of community districts would have reached the growth targets the Governor is now proposing.
In the areas that have not seen much development in the past decade, particularly low-density areas that have often restricted growth, both Gray and Garodnick turned to the development of “missing middle” housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a way to increase density while meeting community concerns.
For the high density areas, Garodnick said the state and city should use Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), tax incentives, and density bonuses for “affordable only” developments to ensure that affordable housing gets built.
In addition to clearly communicating how the plan would unfold at the neighborhood level, the panelists also discussed a need to work with communities.
“There’s always going to be debate. There’s always going to be pushback… But a key component is making sure that you’re having those conversations with the community… What would it look like to have a conversation with everyone at the table?” Ampry-Samuel said.
She shared HUD’s efforts to present an equity plan every year and ensure that there are conversations happening in communities, especially to address fears of displacement. The panelists noted that while increased supply does not necessarily raise rents or cause displacement, community concerns should not be ignored.
“If we want this to be successful, which I think a lot of us do, we really need to include tenants and acknowledge how tenants feel about new construction as part of the conversation,” said Weaver.
Additionally, there was conversation around the potential coalition of groups who want more housing supply and more housing vouchers. The panelists agreed that it was important to not only help more people secure a voucher, but that having a diverse availability of housing is necessary for people to use them.
“Sometimes (vouchers) are treated as kind of this golden ticket, and people have to move far away to actually use it. So we need a much more diverse housing supply for those to be useful, and then they can be a great tool,” said Gray.
2023 New York State Policy Brief Series
As the New York State Legislature considers the Governor’s proposed Housing Compact in this year’s legislative session, the NYU Furman Center is releasing a series of policy briefs exploring the state’s key housing issues in 2023. This series intends to use research to help ground the debate in Albany around policies targeted at mediating the state’s housing affordability crisis.
The first four briefs in the series, which have recently been released, include an introduction to the series and the housing crisis in New York State, which traces the consequences of inadequate housing supply and explores the State’s role in land use regulation. The first topical brief considers ways state policymakers can encourage housing development near transit. The second brief evaluates the costs and benefits of a state-funded housing voucher program. The third brief considers ways that state intervention can target the production of more and different types of housing. As the legislative session unfolds, the Furman Center will release additional briefs in the series aimed at shedding light on other central housing questions, including the role of a tax incentive to incentivise new housing development and the broadening of tenant protections.
To read the briefs, visit: https://furmancenter.org/nyshousing2023