RPA Commends Funding In 2017-2018 State Budget For New York State Homes & Community Renewal

Assembly Standing Committee On Housing Oversight of the State Fiscal Year 2017-2018 State Budget for New York State Homes & Community Renewal

Testimony by Moses Gates, Director of Community Planning and Design, Regional Plan Association

My name Moses Gates, and I am Director of Community Planning and Design at the Regional Plan Association. I would like to thank the Committee Chair Cymbrowitz, and the other Committee Members, for the opportunity to comment on the 2018 Budget.  RPA is a nonprofit research, policy and advocacy organization that has been in existence since 1922, and engages in long-term, comprehensive planning for the 31-county region.  We have recently released our Fourth Regional Plan, which contains recommendations to improve governance, transportation, energy, environment, housing, health, and the economy throughout the region, including several on specific ways to grow & diversity the number of affordable homes in the region.

We commend the allocation of $2.5 billion in the 2017 budget, which has enabled NYS Homes and Community Renewal to begin implementation of a 100,000 units, 5 year housing plan. We thank the NYS Legislature for funding this broad-reaching statewide affordable housing initiative that will improve the lives of New Yorkers and address housing needs across the state, particularly the preservation of public housing and creation of more senior and supportive housing, especially considering the growth of the elderly population in New York City and throughout the region.

Because of the declining support for affordable housing in Washington, as well as the pending tax legislation which is expected to reduce affordable housing funding sources either directly or indirectly through reducing the value of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, now is not the time to compound this with reduced funding at the state and local level.

The need for funding is especially needed for our lowest income housing. In New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long-Island RPA has found a gap of over 500,000 homes needed for people making less than $35,000. Homelessness continues to rise, and more than 88,000 New Yorkers will sleep in shelters across the State, including 24,000 children. And homeownership continues to grow increasingly out of reach for even the middle-class: while households making $100,000 can afford to rent about 80% of the rental homes in New York City, they can only afford to buy about 22% of the homes available for sale.

In addition to continuing to make sure the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal has the resources need to implement its needed housing programs, we also urge the committee to consider additional priorities that are not fully met in the housing plan:

  • Support a Statewide Source of Income Discrimination & Gender Identity Protection Amendment- Support an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law to expand the protected classes to include lawful sources of income, such as wages, salaries and federal, state and local, corporate and nonprofit assistance payments or subsidies. This amendment would extend housing discrimination protections to individuals utilizing Housing Choice Vouchers, Social Security, SSI and unemployment insurance, alimony, veteran’s benefits and the like to cover housing costs. And while housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity is currently prohibited by regulations issued by the NY State Governor, we further ask your continued support in enshrining these protections legislatively as well.
  • Preserve Public Housing- We call for ongoing annual capital funding of at least $100 million for the New York City Housing Authority for investment in preserving public housing, as well as a corresponding commitment for other housing authorities throughout the region. Public housing not only provides deep affordability and housing stability for low-income people for whom the private market generally provides for neither, it is also a publically funded investment, and as such should be kept in a state of good repair.
  • Lift State Cap on Residential Development- New York State Law currently does not allow residential floor area on any site in the state to exceed 12 times the lot area. This is despite the fact that in New York City new commercial buildings and residential development in converted office buildings is often twice this density or more. This restriction keeps New York City from building more homes in denser areas near transit and amenities, as well as prevents rezonings which could both apply the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing legislation and create mixed-income developments and enact desired neighborhood design guidelines for new construction.
  • Explore a fair-share program for New York State- Among other states, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey require all municipalities to provide affordable housing options, with specific remedies if municipalities do not meet their “fair share,” generally through the allowance to build affordable housing or mixed-income construction which may not meet underlying zoning. This helps combat past redlining, and current exclusionary zoning policies. New York State should join these states in enacting a similar fair share law, which would help provide much more affordable housing throughout the state, and especially in high-cost suburban regions.
  • Enact policies which will lead to permanent affordability - Tax exemptions such as the Community Land Trust (CLT) Tax Exemption on CLT Land and Assessment Caps For Permanently Affordable Housing are needed to help ensure the economic feasibility of long-term and permanent affordability of housing owned by CLTs that maintain 99-year ground leases with permanent affordability restrictions. The State must also direct tax-assessors to limit the taxable values of homes with restricted resale values to ensure affordability is maintained in accordance with the deed restrictions and ground leases. Increasing the funding for Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) and Per Unit Allocations for Permanently Affordable Homeownership Projects in High Cost Communities is also needed to help grow permanently affordable homeownership options.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. 

Moses Gates, Director of Community Planning and Design