The lack of affordable housing in New York is becoming a major issue for state residents, particularly in the New York City area.  

In her State of the State message this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul tried to tackle the problem — offering her own plan to build more housing, which is getting mixed reviews.  

Hochul has a plan to build more housing, which will require enormous cooperation from stakeholders at every level.  

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a major, statewide housing plan

  • While it is being embraced by real estate interests, housing advocates are far more critical

  • Hochul will work with the legislature to enact her plan

“Today, I am proud to introduce the New York Housing Compact,” Hochul said Tuesday. “A groundbreaking strategy to catalyze the housing development we need, for our communities to thrive, for our economy to grow and our state to prosper.” 

The governor’s plan includes legalizing basement apartments in New York City.

The scourge of illegal conversions was exposed in 2021 after Hurricane Ida flooded basements in Queens, which killed 11 residents.

Hochul’s plan would require those apartments to meet safety standards. 

But other aspects of her plan are being criticized by housing advocates. 

“The general reaction is that Governor Hochul has made a big deal about a housing plan that is going to deliver nothing for New Yorkers tomorrow,” says Cea Weaver from Housing Justice for All. “Even if you take everything she said at face value, and you believe it’s going to work the way she says it’s going to work, which I don’t, that’s a plan that delivers in three years, five years, 10 years.” 

Last year, a tax abatement program, known as 421A, was allowed to expire in Albany.

Democrats in the legislature felt it created too much luxury development, and not enough affordable housing. 

But the real estate industry says you can’t build any affordable housing without a private sector incentive. 

“It is nearly impossible to build rental housing in New York City without some sort of a major city subsidy or some sort of a rental tax abatement,” says Reggie Thomas from the Real Estate Board of New York. “And this is an incredibly useful tool to help address the housing supply crisis.”

Hochul calls for a renewal of 421A, but did not provide any details. 

Another aspect of Hochul’s plan includes a controversial proposal to allow the state to override local zoning in suburban and rural communities, leading to denser housing developments that are often rejected by local zoning boards.  

“Governor Hochul is correct that there has been a long history of exclusionary, racist zoning in the suburbs. So, it’s good that she has correctly identified a problem. Where it’s not going to work is that she has given the keys to solve that problem entirely to developers and that is just going to lead to soaring rent costs and it really undermines local community planing,” Weaver said.

Hochul will likely have a fight on her hands when it comes to overriding local zoning.

Many suburban communities want to maintain what they often call the “character” of their towns, and preserve historic homes.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the housing organization Cea Weaver works for.