NY Gov. Hochul Fails to Insert Denser Housing into Suburbs Through State Budget

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) speaks after taking her ceremonial oath of office at the New York State Capitol on August 24, 2021 in Albany, New York. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Democrat New York Gov. Kathy Hochul withdrew last week a controversial portion of the state’s draft budget that would have allowed people to rent portions of their home like basements or attics (accessory dwelling units) — a move that would transform single family home neighborhoods into denser, multi-family unit communities.

Hochul’s proposal faced stiff opposition from Nassau and Suffolk county lawmakers and residents of towns and villages that would have been affected by the zoning change. Lawmakers called it “an ill-advised attempt to address the affordable housing crisis.”

Hochul said in a Long Island Press article:

I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach on accessory dwelling units and transit-oriented development, and I understand that my colleagues in the State Senate believe a different set of tools is needed, even if they agree with the goal of supporting the growth of this kind of housing. So, I am submitting a 30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities in order to facilitate a conversation about how we build consensus around solutions.

The Press reported on the development: 

State and local lawmakers have long sought to encourage developers to build affordable housing units, often in transit-oriented housing — apartment buildings increasingly being built on LI near Long Island Rail Road stations in a bid to economically boost downtown communities. Most recently, the state enacted the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Fund Act that will gives the five East End towns the ability to raise money for affordable housing in a region where the disparity has grown worse in recent years. Such developments often run into opposition from neighbors that espouse Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) sentiment and consider such developments a sign of urban creep into suburbia, or what some refer to as the “Queensification” of the Island.

But Hochul’s ADU proposal instead drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, most notably U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who is running a Democratic primary bid challenging Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign.

Village of Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said of the proposal:

A one-size-fits-all proposal approach to zoning never works. Our residents are overtaxed, overburdened, and the state’s solution is to jam more people into a region so many feel is overdeveloped. This proposal would result in the death of the suburbs and begin the slow erosion of our local rights until it is determined that Suffolk County might as well join with New York City. We’re not saying there shouldn’t be accessory dwelling units in any village or town, just that we in our local municipality know the appropriate zoning that would make them beneficial.

Linda R. Killian, a local Republican chairman and financial analyst, wrote about what was behind Hochul’s proposal:

Proposed New York State Senate S.4547 would override local zoning to permit the construction of accessory dwelling units as small as 550 square feet on residential property for the purposes of rental.  Existing accessory dwelling ordinances, which have been adopted to accommodate family members living in these units, would be voided immediately, completely usurping municipal home rule powers for single-family zoning districts.  Municipalities would be prevented from imposing barriers to the units, including parking requirements, setbacks, or allowable residential density.  This is a legislative camel’s nose into the tent to institutionalize state authority.

Hochul’s plan to expand “affordable housing” by fiat goes further in imposing mandates and eroding local zoning.  Her executive budget allocates $25 billion over five years to create 100,000 affordable dwellings.  In addition, once local zoning has been overridden for accessory dwellings, the governor plans to introduce legislation to force construction of multi-family residences in and around Metro-North train stations and bus stops.

“This is a sledgehammer to the suburbs,” said Rob Astorino, former Westchester County Executive and a leading Republican contender to challenge Governor Hochul in November. “Governor Hochul will abolish single-family residential zoning with this legislation and prohibit protections against overcrowding in our neighborhoods, schools, and streets. The power to plan a community must be with local elected officials, not dictated by Albany.”

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