Will Kathy Hochul fight to win on her new housing agenda?
Gov. Kathy Hochul says she’s going to push hard to vastly boost New York’s housing supply to stimulate economic growth and attract new industries, vowing to use her State of the State Address next month to declare a state housing crisis in need of her “bold solutions.” Some of it even sounds reasonable.
“I will not be deterred in our quest because every community, every small town, every local zoning board, every planning board, every community has a role to play, and they must,” she says. Yet, in fact, we’re told she’s really only focusing on the city and its suburbs.
Good: When it comes to the hollowing-out of the upstate economy, housing’s not the issue, but taxes, heavy-handed regulation, insane energy costs and other government-created woes.
The gov cites an analysis by economists at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago claiming economic growth can be hindered by “constraints” in housing supply and arguing “that more reasonable zoning regulations could boost social mobility, increase incomes and expand economic growth.” That certainly sounds apt for New York City.
The devil’s in the details. If the gov wants to push Westchester and Nassau to be more friendly to “mother-in-law” apartments and, say, two-family townhouses, that’s one thing. But demanding that suburbs allow lots more big apartment buildings (and not just near train stations) will go down like vinegar and baking soda — and, if she pulls it off, trigger more people to leave, either to more-distant suburbs or out of state entirely.
She has more of a point in targeting New York City’s badly outdated zoning laws, especially the straitjacket of the Floor Area Ratio cap, which regularly sidelines perfectly fine proposals and is a particular barrier to converting old office buildings into residential ones. The city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process is another notorious problem, among many other nonsensical barriers to new construction.
The gov should take it as a good sign that the City Council in recent months has approved a trio of major developments in Astoria, Queens and Throggs Neck in The Bronx. If even the usually NIMBYish council members are recognizing the enormity of the Big Apple’s housing shortage, her other reforms may have a chance.
Plus, Hochul’s wisely pushing to replace the expired 421a tax credit with a similar measure to overcome the city’s punitive default taxation of new residential buildings. Without it, developers can only make money putting up new luxury towers; the credit makes it practical to build affordable and middle-class towers, too.
Happily, it seems she’ll also oppose the insane drive to expand the state’s lunatic “Just Cause” eviction law, which makes it harder to get rid of tenants who make trouble for other tenants. Almost everything the Legislature does in the name of “tenant protection” discourages the development the city needs.
In short, the gov apparently means to push in the right direction, and has clearly been consulting with Mayor Eric Adams (whose similar housing ideas we’ll review later this week). The question is: Having won election in her own right, will she fight to get the Legislature to go along?