Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed mandate for Long Island leaders to dramatically increase the amount of affordable housing in their communities is getting a mixed reaction on the East End.
Democrats who back such projects praised the plan to require 3% increases every three years in transit-oriented housing near Long Island Rail Road stations over the next decade across the downstate region. Republicans were less enthusiastic.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Hochul said in her State of the State address, a third of which focused on her housing plan. “Local governments can meet these targets however they want and shape the ways they expand building capacity, such as redeveloping old malls and office parks, incentivizing new housing production or updating zoning rules to reduce barriers.”
The governor’s New York Housing Compact proposal aims to build 800,000 new homes statewide over the next decade to address the housing crisis — and would give New York State the power to fast track and overrule local decisions on proposed developments. The plan comes after voters in the East End towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island approved referenda creating a 0.5% real estate tax to fuel affordable housing projects.
“Just building new housing units alone in no way insures affordability,” cautioned state Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor), who supports the compact. “Market forces have overwhelmingly directed growth to seasonal and luxury housing … If the governor’s plan does not also include provisions that new home growth is also affordable, it will fail. These new housing units will become more seasonal luxury housing or Airbnbs unattainable for local families and workers.”
Critics say the fast track approval program would strip municipalities of their ability to combat the unwanted housing developments, worsen traffic, strain local infrastructure and overwhelm schools, although Hochul said localities would get help from the state in the form of new funding for infrastructure such as schools, roads and sewers.
“Every Long Island community has its own unique identity,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, a Republican whose community was the only one on the East End not to put the affordable housing tax up for a vote. “Solutions to Long Island housing needs to be addressed by each unique community. The only way that can happen is if solutions are created through local governments addressing the particular needs of each community.”