Gov. Kathy Hochul withdrew a controversial proposal that critics — including a vocal contingent on Long Island — argued would usurp local governments’ power to regulate single-family and multi-family housing across New York State.
The governor had included the proposal mandating local governments pass legislation allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — apartments in basements, attics, or garages — in her draft of the state budget, which the State Legislature has a deadline of April 1 to pass. Nassau and Suffolk county lawmakers joined local town and village leaders in blasting the idea as an ill-advised attempt to address the affordable housing crisis. After officials spent two weeks hammering home that message, Hochul pulled the proposal on Thursday, the day she earned the Democratic nomination in her gubernatorial campaign.
“I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach on accessory dwelling units and transit-oriented development, and I understand that my colleagues in the State Senate believe a different set of tools is needed, even if they agree with the goal of supporting the growth of this kind of housing,” Hochul said. “So, I am submitting a 30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities in order to facilitate a conversation about how we build consensus around solutions.”
State and local lawmakers have long sought to encourage developers to build affordable housing units, often in transit-oriented housing — apartment buildings increasingly being built on LI near Long Island Rail Road stations in a bid to economically boost downtown communities. Most recently, the state enacted the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Fund Act that will gives the five East End towns the ability to raise money for affordable housing in a region where the disparity has grown worse in recent years. Such developments often run into opposition from neighbors that espouse Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) sentiment and consider such developments a sign of urban creep into suburbia, or what some refer to as the “Queensification” of the Island.
The governor argued that the idea was partly intended to legalize and bring up to code currently illegal apartments in some single-family homes that may be unsafe. But Hochul’s ADU proposal instead drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, most notably U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who is running a Democratic primary bid challenging Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign.
“A one-size-fits-all proposal approach to zoning never works,” Village of Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said of the proposal. “Our residents are overtaxed, overburdened, and the state’s solution is to jam more people into a region so many feel is overdeveloped. This proposal would result in the death of the suburbs and begin the slow erosion of our local rights until it is determined that Suffolk County might as well join with New York City. We’re not saying there shouldn’t be accessory dwelling units in any village or town, just that we in our local municipality know the appropriate zoning that would make them beneficial.”
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) welcomed the news that the governor has amended her budget to drop the proposal.
“I want to thank Governor Hochul for her willingness to hear the concerns of local governments across New York State and take the appropriate action,” said Thiele. “There is no denying that we are currently facing an affordable housing crisis and the construction ADUs will surely be a component of state and local government’s response. However, inflicting a one-size-fits-all mandate that supersedes the constitutional right of our cities, towns, and villages to zone and enact comprehensive planning is ill-considered. I, like many of my colleagues, want to see the benefits of ADUs realized in a way that is compatible with each community’s water quality, resources, transportation, and infrastructure needs.”