When New York City suspended the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) in March, it froze the status of dozens of projects poised to deliver thousands of affordable homes for New Yorkers. Removing this uncertainty was a key factor in the decision to resume the ULURP process this month, according to Deputy Mayor Vicki Been.
However, while a welcomed development, it did not resolve a related glaring impediment to New York’s affordable housing pipeline – the “tolling” or freeze in the timeframe to challenge ULURP decisions.
Pursuant to Executive Order 202.8, issued on March 20, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo tolled the time limits to commence, file, or serve any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding related to civil and criminal actions, including the 120-day period to challenge ULURP approvals by the City of New York.
This freeze on the ability to challenge ULURP decisions was repeatedly extended including most recently by Executive Order 202.55.1 until September 4, 2020.
The impact of the inability to challenge ULURP decisions was that it jeopardized financial commitments for many planned affordable housing projects in the five boroughs, and therefore the projects themselves. Affordable housing projects that received ULURP approval in early 2020 were danger of not securing the funding to proceed on time.
This was a major problem that could either delay or obstruct the construction of new affordable homes that New Yorkers so desperately need – particularly as the economic fallout from the pandemic continues.
The good news is that Governor Cuomo earlier this month reversed course on this issue by once again allowing challenges to ULURP approvals for any “construction project that includes either affordable housing or space for use by not-for-profit organizations” within the 120-day timeframe.
Many affordable housing projects will now be able proceed on time with their financial commitments in hand.
This is a perfect example of the need for us to maintain vigilance and make sure elected officials, policy makers and members of the public are aware of the crucial nature of affordable housing development in this time of great uncertainty.
The de Blasio administration has already slashed the Department of Housing Preservation and Development capital budget by 40 percent over the next two years – a move that will cost residents tens of thousands of affordable units and considerably delay the pipeline. Projects that are already approved may have a difficult time securing private financing as institutions tighten their own belts.
At the state level, funding for the next fiscal year’s housing budget is also far from guaranteed even as conversations are already underway about what the next statewide five-year housing plan should look like.
All of this comes as the pandemic made an already severe affordable housing crisis afflicting New Yorkers even more dire. And, in turn, the rise in housing insecurity and lack of units to meet the need has worsened the pandemic’s impact and complicated the recovery effort.
We need to continue engaging with our elected officials at every level of government to remind them of the importance of safe, secure affordable housing.
New Yorkers need a roof over their heads in order to protect their health, ensure their kids have a safe place to learn and maintain their employment – or look for a new job, should they need one.