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NY Post
New York Post
25 Mar 2023


NextImg:On housing as on all else, Hochul must focus on winning politics

In the run-up to her state budget proposal, Gov. Kathy Hochul promised “bold solutions” to tackle New York’s housing problem, only to present plans with major problems of their own.

In response, the Legislature presented its own flawed one-house budget bills.

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The impasse may not get settled by the official deadline of April 1.

The state’s housing problem is nothing new. Ideas addressing it have been kicking around for years.

The dithering and indecision have fed the affordability and apartment-shortage crises.

Hochul’s “Housing Compact” proposes to build 800,000 new units statewide over 10 years.

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But the plan’s authors seemed to utterly ignore the political challenges.

One main element should be a no-brainer: Renew or replace the 421-a tax abatement for developers in the city, which the Legislature let die last year because the dominant progressives detest anything resembling a “tax break for the rich.”

Thing is, the default property tax on new housing is so high that no one will build anything but high-end apartment buildings without a break.

The tax payments “lost” to 421-a were an illusion, because you can’t tax something that doesn’t get built.

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Because it gave developers incentives to build lower-end units, the 421-a break was behind 75% of the affordable units added in New York City over the past 20 years.

Hochul asked the Legislature to renew it temporarily, or come up with a real replacement now.

The best she’s gotten back so far is talk of maybe letting developers come begging one-by-one for one-off breaks, likely with new strings attached.

Even more naive was the plan’s proposal to let the state override local zoning to mandate higher-density housing in suburban communities, towns and villages.

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Naturally, suburban lawmakers in both parties are united against it — and, since the ‘burbs are the main swing area between Republicans and Democrats, neither party will bite.

Instead, the Assembly and the Senate counter-proposals create a $500 million fund that communities can apply for to 1) create a housing plan and then 2) pay for its implementation.

That’s a recipe for more spending that doesn’t get the job done, just like all the billions New York has wasted on retail “economic development” boondoggles.

Perhaps worst of all, the hard left is offering support for Hochul’s zoning-override idea if she’ll embrace the “Good Cause Eviction” bill to impose rent control statewide — which would kill more housing than she hopes to create.

If the gov’s to get anything, she’ll have to choose.

Barring the “good cause” devil’s bargain, her best hope is to focus on a 421-a extension for the five years she’s proposed.

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She’ll have to fight for it, delaying the budget for weeks (as she also will for her other best ideas, on charter schools and a small fix to the no-bail law), but she can win as long as she can rally moderate Democrats and most Republicans to prevent the Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and state Senate from imposing the left’s vision over her vetoes.

That’ll require her to build relationships with those moderates, but it’s literally her only way forward.

Start playing smart politics, gov, or you’ll soon be no more than a figurehead.