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Channeling Wayne Gretzky, Hochul says: At least ‘I took the shot’ on failed housing plan

Hochul shaking hands in a candid photo, surrounded by people clapping
Don Pollard
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul greets state lawmakers at her State of the State address on Jan. 10, 2023.

The New York state budget is more than four weeks late, and while Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers say they are still negotiating the details of several items, there is one thing they can say for certain: There will not be any plans to address New York’s affordable housing crisis in the budget.

Hochul, in her State of the State message in January, said building more housing to ease the affordability crisis was a top priority.

“Today, I say no more delay. No more waiting for someone else to fix this problem. Housing is a human right,” Hochul said on Jan. 10. “Ensuring enough housing is built is how we protect that right.”

She unveiled a plan, called the New York Housing Compact. Under it, localities across the state would be assigned new housing construction targets that they would have to meet, with the goal of building 800,000 units over the next decade.

If municipal government leaders did not meet those targets, the state would be authorized to override local zoning laws to get the units built.

Local leaders, including in politically powerful suburban regions like Long Island and Westchester, rejected any action that would usurp local authority to design their communities. State senators and Assembly members representing suburban districts refused to support that part of the housing plan.

On Tuesday, the governor confirmed that all of the housing proposals have been removed from the budget.

“I went to Long Island, I had forums in Westchester, I sat down with elected officials who are not embracing this,” Hochul said. “From fairly early on, the Legislature showed they were not interested in the cornerstone, which was the New York compact, which is the part that was going to really make a difference.”

Hochul said she decided to move on, in the interest of reaching a budget agreement.

“I said, ‘Let's not waste any more time on this,’” she said.

Hochul, an avid sports fan, cited former NHL hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

“I took the shot,” Hochul said. “At least we’re trying. And we’re not done.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who did not have the support of the majority of his Democratic members for Hochul’s plan, was diplomatic about the governor’s loss. He said there was not enough time, from when the plan was introduced in Hochul’s budget in early February, to better inform stakeholders on the plan’s benefits.

“Sometimes when you want to make transformative change in policy, there has to be an education period,” Heastie said. “Letting the voters of the state understand why it needs to be done.”

Heastie said local zoning is an important issue, and many residents of cities, towns, and villages don’t want to give that up.

Further complicating the issue: Progressive Democrats in the Legislature insisted that any final housing plan must include more rights for tenants. Many back the Good Cause Eviction measure, which is opposed by landlord groups.

Hochul, Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins say they will work to come up with an affordable housing plan once the budget is finished. They hope to have a consensus before the session ends in June.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.