Governor Kathy Hochul announced a five-year, $25 billion housing plan last week to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes in critical New York, increase new home construction and tackle inequality in the housing market.
Hochul’s plan included a bill requiring municipalities to allow at least one secondary suite on all owner-occupied residential lots.
Also called “grandmother’s apartments” and “in-laws’ units”, these are small homes on the same lot as a primary residence, such as a modest apartment above a garage or a unit below. -ground.
Hochul press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said the legislation would “strengthen the rights of individual landlords to determine how best to use their property, provide landlords on fixed incomes with the opportunity to create additional rental income , helping them to stay in their homes, or multi-generational housing to care for elderly parents and allow municipalities to require the necessary health and safety measures for new units.
Nassau County officials did not share Crampton-Hays’ enthusiasm.
“This proposal that’s being made would effectively end single-family housing in New York State,” said Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive who is challenging Hochul for governor.
Suozzi went on to call Hochul’s plan “a sweeping proposal that would take zoning control away from city governments, erode local government authority, and end single-family housing across New York.”
Republican elected officials led by County Executive Bruce Blakeman were even less enthusiastic.
“Governor. Hochul has declared war on the suburbs, the environment, local infrastructure, our schools, accessible parking and manageable traffic, among all the other benefits that come with the quality of suburban life we enjoy at Long Island,” Hempstead supervisor Don Clavin mentioned.
North Hempstead City Supervisor Jen DeSena said the proposed legislation would “destroy Long Island’s suburbs” by effectively eliminating single-family zoning.
The passionate response to Hochul’s proposal assumes two things.
The first is that there is actually a strong demand for affordable housing in Nassau County. The second is that many owners would like to add an apartment to their house. If not, why the big impact?
Whether that would destroy the quality of life in the suburbs is another question. The large number of adult children returning to live with their parents – because they cannot afford their own home – does not seem to have been a problem so far.
The lack of affordability may be partly explained by data showing that between 2010 and 2018, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Putnam counties each granted fewer building permits per capita than virtually all other suburban counties in the United States. United States.
This, in turn, may explain the shortage of homes for sale in Nassau and the spike in house prices that former county executive Laura Curran says forced her to freeze appraisals in Nassau for two straight years. .
Hence the face of the problem: children returning to their parents and the difficulty older residents have in moving into small homes in neighborhoods where they have lived for many years.
Nassau County’s zoning policies have helped it remain the most segregated large county in the United States.
The New York area has the second highest level segregation between black and white residents in the country, and the third highest level of segregation between Latino or Hispanic and white residents as well as between Asian American and white residents.
A recent Furman Center study found that it’s no coincidence that New York has some of the most exclusive zoning, especially in Westchester and Long Island.
A Newsday study blamed Nassau’s segregation on mortgage redlining, school district boundaries, racial leadership, blockbusting and, of course, zoning.
The end product – as evidenced by bipartisan opposition to Hochul’s proposal – was hugely popular with residents. At least those who can afford to live here.
Suozzi was the only official to say he supported ideas to address housing issues.
He said he supports a general ‘amnesty’ program for the tens of thousands of illegally converted homes in New York – and the paving the way for similar action in other communities across the state.
But like Nassau Republicans, Suozzi said nothing about zoning in the suburbs while expressing opposition to removing at least some zoning decisions from local governments — something that has been done in California in recent years, in Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah.
Suozzi and the Republicans are selective in opposing state making decisions for local governments and somewhat dishonest in portraying their authority.
Under the New York State Constitution, the Governor and State Legislature can do pretty much what they want when it comes to making local decisions. This was often apparent when Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped on the toes of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio throughout the last administration.
Statewide, this can be seen in the 2% tax cap that Cuomo imposed on every municipality in New York State.
In Nassau County, this use of state power to help dictate how much local governments can raise in taxes has been widely applauded by officials often unwilling to say no to the wishes of their constituents.
Unlike Suozzi, Republican officials did not recognize that changes needed to be made.
It’s not unexpected.
Nassau officials, both Democrats and Republicans, have acknowledged that few young people can afford homes in the county, but have often resisted developments that would provide needed housing.
Developers and architects said they had been discouraged from building in the town of North Hempstead by the lack of zoning that allows for mixed-use development.
Instead, developers face the expense of trying to change zoning on a case-by-case basis. It’s an offer that many have turned down.
When developers moved forward with their proposals, officials often cited the same arguments as Hochul’s plan – the impact on local infrastructure, school population, accessible parking and traffic.
Some residents said their communities were all full.
Everyone in Nassau remembers the county lost its hockey team, the New York Islanders, 10 years ago when the town of Hempstead failed to approve a plan to transform the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the area around it into a modern suburb.
There have been some successes with transit-oriented mixed-use developments near train stations, including Mineola, where four large apartment buildings have been built and the village has reaped significant financial benefits.
But more needs to be done to change the lack of housing, affordable and otherwise, in Nassau. Much more.
We’d like to think opponents of the Hochul plan share a commitment to downtown development and meeting the county’s housing needs.
If so, we’d love to hear their plan not to end the suburban lifestyle in Nassau, but at least to change it for the better.