HOUSING Worthy state goals come with pitfalls | News, Sports, Jobs – Evening Observer

Jan 23, 2023
As we noted earlier this month, improving access to decent, affordable housing is worthy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s attention.
Rents have skyrocketed in many areas. Home prices increased dramatically — a welcome development for Jamestown homeowners who saw their home prices stagnant for decades before the pandemic-fueled buying boom. With that buying boom came an increase in housing prices that has priced some families out of the market.
Hochul is proposing a New York Housing Compact that will require all cities, towns, and villages to achieve new home creation targets on a three-year cycle. Downstate municipalities served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority where the housing need is most acute, including New York City, will have a 3% new homes target over three years. For municipalities in upstate counties, the new homes target will be 1% over three years. Localities will decide how to best meet their new home construction targets, including repurposing underutilized office parks and strip malls and incentives toward multifamily buildings.
Two things about her proposal are troubling. First is areas that have approved projects only to see state funding that made the projects possible fall through, like Home Leasing’s proposal to build 50 multifamily housing units along with 4,300 square feet of commercial space on Main Street, Falconer. Home Leasing gave up after submitting four applications for state funding, only to be denied each time. In such a situation, Falconer and Ellicott should not have the state’s funding decisions held against them.
But even more problematic is Hochul’s plan to allow a fast track review if a locality denies a zoning permit required for a housing development. The governor proposes allowing an appeal to be made to a new State Housing Approval Board or through the courts, with appealed projects approved unless a locality can demonstrate a valid health or safety reason for denying the application. The legislature should think long and hard about the State Housing Approval Board, a creation that, in our view, does nothing more than place an area that was once controlled locally in the hands of a bureaucrat who can’t find Chautauqua County with a map and a flashlight or a judge who has been given a case that, in essence, has a predetermined outcome.
There are dozens of other things Hochul could do to improve affordable housing options, including tax incentives to either demolish dilapidated housing and rebuild new, affordable housing in its place; reducing some of the state regulations — particularly regarding asbestos abatement — that drive up the cost of housing demolitions or rehabilitations; or helping fund new tax incentives for new home construction that many localities can’t afford to do themselves. Instead, Hochul is telling local municipalities to do her bidding whether it violates local laws or not — or else the state will do it for them.
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