“New York finally has a big, bold, and brave plan to really make the state affordable. It will attack the lack of housing supply, the inequitable distribution of housing, and the reticence of some local leaders to do their part.”
When Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at a New York Housing Conference event in December, she promised bold action to fight the housing crisis—the sort of rhetoric we’ve all heard time and time again from elected officials in the face of a crisis.
Her State of the State address last week, however, shows that this time has the potential to be very different. Quite simply, this is the leadership we’ve been waiting for on housing.
Our housing crisis is in part driven by a lack of overall housing supply to meet existing and growing demand, which contributes to rising rents and sales prices for everyone. The lack of supply is stark no matter how you look at it.
Statewide, nearly half of renters are cost-burdened, in large part because New York has a deficit of almost 650,000 available rental units affordable for households making roughly $50,000 or less. The New York City metro area—which includes suburban communities in Westchester County and Long Island, among others—has produced nearly 150,000 fewer units less in the last 20 years than it did in the preceding two decades.
Or, to use a measure favored by the Hochul administration, New York created jobs at three times the rate of new housing units in the decade before the pandemic, leaving us with 1.25 million new jobs, but only 400,000 units of new housing. With figures like that, it’s no wonder the Empire State is in crisis.
Even worse, the little housing we do produce is not being distributed equitably. Some communities are doing their share, to be sure, but far too many are not. And it is predominantly whiter, wealthier suburban areas that are the worst offenders. For far too long, these areas have restricted growth and, in the process, closed their communities to others—despite their prosperity and security.
This must change now. We need more housing, and we need every community to do its share. That is where Gov. Hochul’s plans come in.
To fight this crisis and the lack of supply, Gov. Hochul has proposed a comprehensive plan that will address our lack of housing supply, while aligning it with climate and job goals. It is a growth plan to move the state forward and spread the security of an affordable home to more people. And it does so by directly targeting equity.
Most importantly, she will set housing growth targets for each locality that sets zoning policy and collect the necessary data to hold them accountable.
She will also require higher zoning around public transit infrastructure—called Transit Oriented Development. The state has invested in communities to provide transit options, and those communities must make those options open to more people.
There will be teeth to these targets. When communities do not meet targets, developers that are rejected will be able to go to a newly created zoning appeals board, where the state can overrule the rejection and approve development plans.
We have long been beating the drum on the extent of our housing crisis and the need for big bold solutions. And while it is true that these proposals are only focused on smart growth—and not other important initiatives, like permanently ending homelessness or increasing tenant protections—they reach the heart of a crisis that has been hitting low- and middle-income New Yorkers hard for years.
At last, however, there is a plan that may meet the moment by addressing the supply shortages causing it in the first place. If implemented, these efforts will help seniors stay in their homes after retirement, college graduates remain in New York after graduation, and help first-time home buyers climb the property ladder.
That is why we are so excited about these proposals: they are big enough to meet the crisis, and they will help real New Yorkers in the long run.
New York finally has a big, bold, and brave plan to really make the state affordable. It will attack the lack of housing supply, the inequitable distribution of housing, and the reticence of some local leaders to do their part. It is a plan that everyone—not just the housing community—should stand behind because it is what New York has long needed and deserved.
Fee is the Executive Director of the New York Housing Conference.