BY JOLIE MILSTEIN
Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul presented New Yorkers with her Executive Budget, running through key legislative priorities ahead of upcoming state budget testimony. Fortunately for New Yorkers, that plan included robust housing investments signaling that Governor Hochul is rightfully prioritizing housing amidst a worsening housing crisis.
Among many other housing wins, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) was encouraged to see Governor Hochul outline a new five-year housing plan, allocating $25 billion over five years to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes in urban and rural communities, including 10,000 homes with supportive services. This commitment surpasses previous plans and will help meaningfully address housing affordability in New York.
The stats regarding New York’s housing crisis remain harrowing. There are simply not enough housing opportunities for low- and middle-income New Yorkers: according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is a shortage of more than 600,000 affordable homes in the Empire State. And rising rents have far outpaced wage growth in recent decades.
The best way to close that gap is simple: we need to produce more affordable housing in every community. That is precisely what Governor Hochul’s five-year plan will do. Multi-year funding streams help the affordable housing industry plan ahead and keeps a steady pipeline of affordable homes coming online at all times.
The plan is coupled with smart land use policies to allow for more accessory dwelling units, transit-oriented development, and changes in density regulations. It is evident from these proposals that Governor Hochul understands that capital alone will not solve the challenge. We also need to overcome many land use obstacles to clear the way for development.
Of course, it is not enough to just create more affordable housing. Those homes must be outfitted for the modern world – meaning they must be sustainable, efficient, and connected. Governor Hochul’s plan will help electrify 50,000 affordable homes and make another 1 million electrification-ready, mirroring new sustainable housing commitments, and will dedicate $1 billion to closing the digital divide in affordable housing.
The broadband commitment is particularly encouraging. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s 2021 report found 1 million New York households do not have access or a subscription to home broadband services, or 14 percent of total households. Broadband access is so heavily engrained into everyday life, it has become a necessity for all residents – and, unfortunately, many affordable housing residents are paying the price.
NYSAFAH recently teamed with HR&A Advisors to create a comprehensive and detailed blueprint explaining how New York can close the digital divide. That report will hopefully form a key component of the ConnectALL program and ensure that residents don’t just have an affordable home, but one that is fitted with the necessities they need.
Although certainly encouraging, this vision must be put into action. NYSAFAH stands ready to work with the Hochul administration and the Legislature to advance this plan during the session. That is no less than New Yorkers deserve.