The end of the year traditionally offers an opportunity both to take stock of the past 12 months and look ahead at what’s to come.
Thanks to the ongoing economic and physical challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 was very challenging. New York’s affordable housing crisis has deepened and reached emergency status, with an estimated shortage of 591,000 units across the state.
Neither City nor the State can accept the status quo in 2022. The outsized challenges we face require innovative solutions and immediate action. Thankfully, these obstacles also present new opportunities. With millions of dollars in federal funding coming into the state for infrastructure and other priorities, and new leadership at both City Hall and the state Capitol, New York has the chance to take bold action and make a real difference in thousands of lives.
To do so requires significant investments in projects and policies that establish housing as a basic human right for all New Yorkers and helps them obtain critical services they need for success. With that in mind, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) engaged in another time-honored end-of-year tradition – the holiday wish list – of our top five housing priorities we hope the governor and incoming mayor will consider in 2022.
New 5-Year Statewide Housing Plan
Funding for the current $2.5 billion 5-Year Housing Plan will be exhausted in March 2022. It has thus far created approximately 66,500 affordable units and a commitment to 6,000 supportive units, providing safe, reliable housing for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
New York needs to enact a statutory 5-year housing capital plan, similar to what exists for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), to ensure a transparent and predictable pathway to address our mounting housing needs. Additionally, the 2022-23 state budget must include sufficient funds to support the plan.
Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature must pass a multi-year funding commitment to continue the pipeline of affordable housing projects, which often take years of planning and approvals to come to fruition. Developers and lenders require the predictability of a multi-year plan to move forward with much-needed projects.
Expedite ULURP for 100 Percent Affordable Housing in New York City
The current and expansive ULURP process can cause lengthy project delays, adding to the already high cost of affordable housing construction in New York City. To maximize affordable housing investment, the city must expedite the process for 100 percent affordable housing projects across the five boroughs. Of course, community input is critical, but to combat the current homelessness crisis, the creation of a dedicated “fast lane” for entirely affordable projects would alleviate costly construction delays and result in more units for those who need them most.
Upzone High Opportunity New York City Neighborhoods and Transit Corridors
The recent movement to rezone SoHo and NoHo to facilitate the construction of additional affordable housing units is encouraging, but it is not enough. Rezoning can spur increased production of affordable and supportive units, which, in turn, can help address the long-standing residential segregation patterns in New York City. Historically, zoning has decreased density in white, affluent areas while increasing density in Black and Latino and lower-income communities. The current zoning regulations are the result of decades of discriminatory housing policies, preventing residents from accessing critical transit, health care, education and job opportunities, and other services, and this must change.
Sustainable Affordable Housing Funding
New York State is leading the way with the most aggressive clean energy and climate plan in the country – the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires an economy-wide reduction in greenhouse gases by 2040. NYSAFAH strongly supports sustainable housing production and promotion of increased energy efficiency in housing units, both of which will also result in significant savings for tenants.
The 2022-23 state budget must include at least $500 million for a new program to finance greater energy efficiency and green construction in affordable housing projects. This program will complement the CLCPA’s goals and help New York satisfy the requirement that it provide at least 35 to 40 percent of the Act’s funds and incentives to historically disadvantaged communities.
Promote Digital Equity Through Broadband Access
Low-income residents of affordable housing developments across the state are disproportionately impacted by lack of internet access. A recent report by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found 1 million new York households do not have home broadband services – due to lack of affordability, lack of infrastructure or both. The pandemic has underscored the necessity of reliable, fast online access as so many services – from healthcare to education – are now available virtually. Underserved communities are falling behind significantly due to the persistence of the digital divide. NYSAFAH encourages the state to leverage the $100 million it will receive in federal infrastructure money earmarked for broadband to ensure that all affordable housing developments – both new and existing – are fully wired for online access and will be providing a blueprint for making that goal a reality.
Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH).