Strengthening protections against foreclosure and eviction must be "part of the conversation" in expanding affordable housing in New York, members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus on Tuesday said.
The influential coalition of lawmakers in the state Legislature signaled it would be supportive of the broad efforts outlined by Gov. Kathy Hochul this week to expand housing in New York in order to drive down rents and remove barriers to first-time homeownership amid skyrocketing costs.
The changes backed by Hochul would also include provisions to greenlight projects that meet criteria for affordable housing even if local zoning restrictions have held back approval.
Caucus lawmakers were supportive of making "significant investments" to expand New York's housing stock.
"Consequently, this will require increased efforts from the state to enforce fair housing laws and tackle housing discrimination which remains a vital obstacle to making actual gains in combating the housing crisis," the group said in a statement. "There is no doubt that there is a need for more housing, but eviction and foreclosure protection measures must be a part of the conversation."
Hochul's affordable housing plan as outlined in her State of the State address on Tuesday comes after caucus lawmakers outlined their own platform last month in an agenda meant to improve equity in the state, addressing support for public housing and making it easier for people facing eviction or foreclosure to remain in their homes.
New York officials want to address affordability issues facing the state's reisdents as inflation has taken a bite out of New Yorkers' wallets and bank accounts. Housing stock nationally has not kept up with demand, and even with nation-leading outmigration, New York has struggled to keep pace with housing needs.
Rents across the state have sharply increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and housing in areas that had been considered more affordable have increased in costs as working from home has allowed upper income New Yorkers more flexibility in where they can live.
Housing advocates have long pointed to local zoning restrictions as a barrier to expanding residential units.
But as the state moves to address living costs, there's skepticism. The fiscally conservative Empire Center panned Hochul's approach to addressing living costs, arguing her policies will have the opposite effect.
“These spending expansions would increase the state’s fiscal exposure and make its residents — already among the highest-taxed in the nation by any measure — more vulnerable to further rate hikes," said Peter Warren, the think tank's director of research. “While the governor acknowledged in her speech that New York residents are fleeing the state at an alarming rate, there is little in her address that will encourage put-upon residents from pulling up stakes in search of greener pastures where they can hold onto more of their own earnings.”
Tenants' rights organizations, meanwhile, pushed for a statewide measure for so-called "good cause" eviction that would make it harder for landlords to raise rents and evict people.
"We will continue to raise our voices to demand real investments in the policies and programs millions of New Yorkers need," said Olivia Leirer, the co-executive director of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change. "Our communities will keep urging Gov. Hochul to enact the good cause eviction bill to protect tenants, to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund policies and programs that will save lives, and to invest in public safety without rolling back bail reform measures that have been proven to work."