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State Lawmakers Offer Incentivized Housing Plan Over Hochul Compact

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Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly agreed last week to reject Gov. Kathy Hochul’s transit-oriented development component from her proposed Housing Compact, countering with incentives for municipalities that participate in a housing growth plan.

In the legislature’s proposed One House Budget resolutions released last week, communities that sign up for the housing program would have their Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding increased should they meet the targets in the lawmakers’ counter proposal, said Assemblyman Chris Burdick (D-Bedford). There would still be $250 million set aside for infrastructure upgrades in those municipalities and $20 million toward planning assistance.

Burdick said some of the key provisions would remain similar for communities that choose to participate, including a required 3 percent increase in housing stock within three years for municipalities in downstate counties that are serviced by the MTA.

However, the automatic rezoning of up to 50 units an acre within a half-mile radius of every train station has been eliminated in the lawmakers’ plans. Instead, municipalities can choose to place the new residential units where they are best suited in their jurisdictions.

“I think by incentivizing it this way, providing the kind of incentives that I described, providing the funds for infrastructure that now is in the budget, I think we’re now going to have some success,” Burdick said.

“Is it going to be a complete and total success within a three-year period of time? Probably not,” he acknowledged. “But I think we will have some successes, and I really feel very strongly that we have to at least try this approach before we look at a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is the embodiment of the Hochul Housing Compact.”

If the counterproposal is accepted, participating municipalities would have until next Apr. 1 to submit a housing growth plan to receive a yet-to-be-determined additional AIM payment. A second payment would be released if they meet the housing growth targets after three years, according to Burdick.

There would be a two-year grace period to receive a Certificate of Occupancy for the newly-constructed units. There would also be extra points earned for creation of affordable units, transit-oriented development, rehabilitation of abandoned buildings for housing and zoning changes.

The proposal was largely applauded by Assemblyman Matt Slater (R-Yorktown) who said “there’s no doubt it’s the better approach.” However, Slater was concerned that the money the state would provide would still be inadequate, including the infrastructure funding.

“There’s still a question of how much planning money is going to be available for municipalities to follow through and do it,” Slater said. “The other thing they kept was the $250 million infrastructure money, which is woefully inadequate. That’s not even realistic.”

During a press conference last Wednesday, Hochul didn’t directly address the legislature’s proposed elimination of the transit-oriented development component or whether she’d be willing to roll back that part of her plan. However, Hochul appeared to indicate that the state would be partners to help municipalities that were interested in boosting its housing stock.

“I believe I spent 14 years in local government and one of the barriers always was the cost of infrastructure,” Hochul said. “But we never before had the state saying, we’re in this with you. We’re not leaving you alone. We’re here to help you with those extraordinary costs, because we have a strong interest as a state to create more housing in New York overall, to achieve our number of 800,000 over the next decade. So, we’ll be happy to work with any supervisor, and the bolder their plan, the more interested I’m going to be in looking at it.”

Burdick said most of the governor’s public statements has her maintaining most of the key provisions of the Housing Compact. However, when speaking to Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas, Burdick said he was told there is room for compromise.

“I think we will end up with a housing plan,” he said. “If I had to make an educated guess, I think that that plan would not include mandatory changes in zoning, would not include punitive measures for municipalities that fail to meet targets.”

Last Tuesday, the mayors of nine cities in the lower Hudson Valley, including White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and New Rochelle’s Noam Bramson in Westchester, released an op-ed piece in support of Hochul’s plan.

Roach said he’s aware of the unique challenges in each community, but because Hochul has brought the issue to the forefront, it has highlighted the need for every municipality to play a role in creating more housing. More than 20 years ago, under Mayor Joseph Delfino, White Plains was among the first municipalities in the region to understand that more people living downtown would help a community.

For communities that have already taken the initiative, there should be additional incentives beyond money infrastructure and planning, he said.

“It’s financial incentives so that communities that do venture into this can be given credit for it,” Roach said. “This is so hard to do, so many communities are saying it’s impossible. For those of us who have figured it out, maybe we should be recognized for it.”

Bramson said many communities that don’t have infrastructure to support large increases in housing have valid concerns, points that were outlined in a Feb. 28 letter to Hochul from the Westchester Municipal Officials Association. However, there are others that have demonized new housing.

“I think it is wrong to perceive of housing as a threat or a burden, and instead we should be thinking of it as a benefit, both in regional terms and in local terms,” Bramson said. “I would encourage fair-minded local leaders to sort of engage the topic in that spirit, and I think if we do, we’re likely to get to viable solutions.”

Burdick said while some housing advocates are skeptical of the legislature’s compromise proposal because they believe some communities would forego additional state funds and choose to keep the status quo, it would be a good place to start.

“My response to that would be we ought to give it a try first before we come to the conclusion it’s not going to work,” he said.

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