Housing leaders from all corners of the state analyzed ideas Thursday to increase housing in New York and address its insufficient supply at an annual affordable housing conference in Albany.
Hundreds of stakeholders arrived at the one-day event, led by the state Association for Affordable Housing, ready to get their hands dirty. Early discussions were centered on ways the Legislature could increase the number of affordable housing units statewide next year — needed by more New Yorkers are prices continue to rise.
"We've been working hard now to develop solutions to the housing crisis," Senate Housing Committee chair Brian Kavanagh said at the start of the conference. "We recognize as I'm sure everyone in this room does that that is going to involve increasing supply and also, in many parts of the state, stabilizing the housing we've got already."
In a panel, county leaders from Westchester, Ulster and Lewis counties mulled how affordable housing challenges differ in their urban, suburban and rural communities.
Rents and housing prices have seen double-digit increases with rising costs, and an increasing aging population in upstate, rural areas is stressing a sparse rental market.
"The housing stock is not in great shape, and it's also not the type of housing that we need in the North Country," Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche said. "You have a very old housing stock with a population that's growing older."
Thursday's conference featured workshops about infrastructure, financing projects and talks about what incentives will attract contractors and local governments. The hours of conversation came as the Legislature prepares for a tough battle next session to compromise with Gov. Kathy Hochul after negotiations fell short year.
Expected pushback from local communities unwelcome to affordable housing projects could make proposals more difficult, especially as a flood of second homeowners came upstate since the pandemic, decreasing the rental and housing supply.
"That has really eroded a lot of the core manufacturing and natural resource development that has defined the North Country for a lot of years," Piche added. "That has gone away, and so we kind of need these other folks that are coming in and paying taxes to stabilize our economy as well."
The housing issues have significantly contributed to upstate's ongoing population decline.
Advocates say more funding is needed for nonprofit and community organizations.
"There's never enough, and we just need to be more aggressive," said Kevin Horrigan, associate vice president of public affairs of nonprofit People's Inc. — one of the largest providers of affordable housing in Western New York.
Horrigan will push more housing officials to provide input in drafting the state's Master Plan for Aging to discern housing needs for older New Yorkers.
Thursday's conversations mark the beginning of months of discussions that could shape the governor's State of the State and next year's budget proposals.
A handful of upstate communities have filed applications with the state Homes & Community Renewal to get department certification as a "Pro-Housing Community," or localities that support housing projects, since applications opened two weeks ago. Certified localities will have priority for $650 million in grants to build new housing projects, which Gov. Hochul declared as emergency funding through an executive order this summer.
"The goal would be a lot of the funding is available in next year's budget cycle, Homes and Community Renewal commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said. "We want localities to get certified now so they can have those extra points when they apply next spring."
Hochul took action solo after the Legislature rejected the governor's housing compact to build 800,000 new units over 10 years, as many lawmakers weren't comfortable with giving the state power to override local zoning rules.
“Gov. Hochul remains committed to increasing New York’s housing supply in light of the housing crisis, and will continue to work closely with the Legislature and other stakeholders on solutions to make the state more affordable and more livable for all New Yorkers," Hochul's spokesman Justin Henry said in a statement Thursday.
Reaching a compromise on housing could prove more difficult with all members of the Legislature up for reelection in 2024. Legislative leaders are estimated to have to close a $9.1 billion budget gap in next year's negotiations, expected to make addressing the housing shortage even more complicated.
Assembly Housing Committee chair Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who spoke at Thursday's conference, says localities should submit their specific housing needs to the state.
"That's a good way to work together," Rosenthal told Capital Tonight. "Certainly, there are many locations where it is wanted."
The governor and lawmakers' housing discussions also broke down last session over strengthening tenant protections. Progressive lawmakers are adamant over the inclusion of some provisions of Good Cause Eviction, which would limit evictions.
It continues to be a goal of Democrats in the Legislature.
"Well, it's way too early to speculate, but I don't think our goals have changed at all from last year," Rosenthal said.