Lawmakers’ incentives-only housing plan won’t work

The incentives-only housing plan rolled out by Albany Democrats this week as a counter to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s more stick-heavy approach won’t build the homes and apartments New York needs to fix its housing crisis, a new study finds.

The blistering assessment comes from researchers at New York University’s Furman Center — which is headed by the Big Apple’s former housing commissioner, Vicki Been.

And it comes as the leaders of the Assembly and state Senate face mounting criticism from housing activists over their ‘all-carrots’ approach.

“Without mandates, it’s unlikely that there will be enough new housing production across the region to help bring down costs (the point of this effort),” the researchers reported.

The offer from the legislative leaders stands in stark contrast to Hochul’s housing plan, which includes two key enforcement mechanism to meet the state’s proposed housing targets.

Gov. Hochul celebrates the launch of full service into the LIRR’s new $11 billion terminal on the East Side at Grand Central, which promises to give commuters heading to Midtown a shorter commute. The service has been marred by the railroad’s struggles to the morning rush hour.
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First, it would require that New York City and many suburban communities allow construction of two- to four-story residential buildings near subway stops and train stations.

Second, it would create a state housing board that could approve any housing project rejected by local officials in municipalities that don’t meet their housing targets, provided the development includes homes or apartments set aside for working-class and middle-income New Yorkers.

Hochul says her plan would allow the state to build 800,000 new homes and apartments over the next 10 years, roughly double the statewide pace over the last decade.

The dueling plans have emerged as Albany and City Hall face growing pressure to tackle the downstate housing shortage, a years-in-the-making crisis that has exploded into full view in recent months.

These Manhattan row houses provide an example of the level of density that would be permitted under Gov. Hochul’s housing plan to spur development near train stations.
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But Hochul’s proposals to override local zoning face stiff resistance, especially from suburban lawmakers.

Nassau and Suffolk counties combined to permit just 19,000 new homes and apartments over the last decade. That averages to less than one new unit of housing, per square mile per year, even as home values soared.

Lawmakers from those areas — predominantly Democrats in Westchester and Republicans in Nassau counties — have pushed back hard, citing local control and a determination to maintain their towns current character.

“Bronxville wouldn’t be able to accommodate so many housing units or even a fraction of the amount required. It would change the character and integrity of the community,” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) told her local paper.

Bronxville’s mayor estimates the town of 6,700 people would need to build 75 new homes or apartments to comply with Hochul’s requirements.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie addresses the press in the Capitol last year.

The counter proposals from the Assembly and state Senate both adopt Hochul’s target of increasing downstate housing production by 3 percent every three years and by 1 percent every three years upstate.

But both chambers are pushing to nix Hochul’s ‘sticks’ that would force housing construction. Instead, they would replaced them with a new fund of $500 million to provide grants to local communities that hit their growth targets — double the $250 million offered by Hochul.

“On this question, two important things policymakers need to keep in mind: 1. Approaches that rely solely on incentives haven’t worked anywhere. 2. Incentives are especially ineffective at convincing affluent localities to step up,” the researchers said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) directly pointed to maintaining local control when asked about the incentives-only approach at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

“That’s something that’s very sensitive. State legislators are very respectful of their localities, he said. “I’m very sensitive to what my community board feels and what [the Department of] City Planning thinks about that.”

He added: “Overriding your local boards is not something that the legislature is thrilled to even consider.”