Albany Times Union. January 17, 2023.
Editorial: Get housing goal right
The governor wants to build more homes. She needs to ensure they’re affordable.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to increase housing in New York would be more encouraging if affordability seemed more like a priority than an afterthought.
The governor, in her State of the State message, called for a “housing compact” that engages the government and communities in a joint effort to develop 800,000 new units of housing over the next decade.
That’s a worthy goal. A state that hopes to attract new businesses and stem an exodus of residents needs more homes. New York is one of a number of states that in recent years has created more jobs than it has boosted housing.
But it isn’t just housing that’s in short supply; it’s affordable housing. According to the Population Reference Bureau, more than 51 percent of the state’s households in rental units are rent-burdened — with more than 30 percent of their income going to rent — and nearly a third of homeowners are in similar straits when it comes to paying the mortgage. The situation is, not surprisingly, worse for those with lower household incomes.
Ms. Hochul aims to increase the housing supply by setting growth goals on a community-by-community basis. Communities would be encouraged to streamline environmental reviews and zoning regulations to speed up approvals and allow more multi-family projects, especially near downstate mass transit lines. The state would create a $250 million infrastructure fund and a $25 million planning fund to help communities develop and meet their goals. If they fall short, the state could step in, approving projects through a new State Housing Approval Board or the courts, unless a community can show a health or public safety reason to deny approval.
Creating housing is all well and good. And in theory, the less tight the housing market is, the lower rents and home prices will be. Again, that’s the theory.
The one significant nod in the governor’s plan to affordability, though, is to give communities extra points toward their overall housing growth goal for units that meet affordability criteria.
That sounds like a plan that puts a lot of hope on the market to act in the public interest. There’s no clear incentive in this plan to encourage development of affordable housing in and around, say, a hot community like Saratoga Springs, where plenty of housing has already gone up at prices that most people working in the city’s tourism and hospitality industries can’t afford. And where housing isn’t being built, what’s the carrot?
It reminds us, somewhat, of the state’s brownfields program, which originally offered big tax incentives — which are, after all, public subsidies – to developers who cleaned up old polluted sites. Developers bought in — and used the tax breaks to fatten their profits on things like office parks and luxury hotels that they were going to build anyway, even without the public help.
If the state has a goal, it needs to make that goal not just a wish but a clear priority, even a mandate. Otherwise, New York could end up pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into an effort that results in more housing that most of the state’s workforce can’t afford. That isn’t good for people looking for a place to live, or for companies looking for a place to do business, or for a state trying to attract and keep them.
Auburn Citizen. January 15, 2023.
Editorial: Support Hochul’s mental health care proposals
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings in the health care system, and right at the top is the inadequacy of how we provide services for people struggling with mental illness.
The pandemic has been a major driver of increased demand for mental heath care, but the capacity to meet that demand, especially in an affordable manner, just has not been there.
Ask anyone who has tried to find counseling services for a child, or had to watch a loved one or friend struggle while waiting for an in-patient psychiatric bed to open up. And for those who can get care, the bills can pile up fast. Many providers don’t take insurance, while many insurance plans have limited coverage.
It’s a broken system, and that’s why New Yorkers should be pleased that among Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top initiatives outlined in her State of the State speech last week is a $1 billion investment in improving mental health care.
“We have underinvested in mental health care for so long, and allowed the situation to become so dire, that it has become a public safety crisis, as well,” Hochul said in a press release. “This proposal marks a monumental shift to make sure no one falls through the cracks and to finally and fully meet the mental health needs of all New Yorkers.”
The governor’s proposals include requiring hospitals to reopen 850 inpatient psychiatric beds that were taken out of the system to open capacity when COVID-19 hospitalizations were peaking. She also wants the state to add 150 new psychiatric beds.
The plan would use state funding to leverage the development and operation of 3,500 residential units that would support people across the spectrum of mental illness, from intensive services for people with the most serious challenges to transitional housing for people nearly ready to return to community-based living.
The governor is calling for policy changes and investments that would address the admissions and discharge process for people who do get hospital care for mental illness. That effort would include major expansions of outpatient services.
The plan also calls for expanded insurance coverage for mental health care, as well as significant increases in school-based services.
These are all ideas with tremendous promise, and a $1 billion price tag over a period of several years is an investment that will more than pay off. We urge all legislators to get behind them and help New York to become a mental health care model for the rest of the country to follow.
Dunkirk Evening Observer. January 17, 2023.
Editorial: STATE OF THE STATE: After the speech, will action follow?
There are some things to like in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State address.
The devil will be in the details and, frankly, in Hochul’s ability to force legislators into compromise positions.
She talked about the state’s population losses and the need to do more retain those who leave for greener pastures. The governor made clear she heard the worries of state residents about crime and plans to spend $1 billion to help those dealing with serious mental illness while adding psychiatric beds in hospitals across the state.
Hochul said she won’t increase income taxes in this year’s state budget as economists continue to hint at the possibility of a recession. Those who have been trying to buy a house know how limited the supply has been over the past couple of years, so Hochul’s pledge to increase housing construction across the state is news to the ears of many families.
The bad news is State of the State addresses are great at setting a vision and bad at divining how a policy will actually work once the legislative sausage-making begins.
It’s unclear how she will keep income taxes the same while promising programs that will require new spending. She may have heard state residents’ worries about crime, but the State of the State address didn’t mention allowing judges to use dangerousness as a standard for bail as many states allow. Perhaps the best news is Hochul wants to triple aid to district attorneys to help them handle discovery costs and issues that have plagued district attorneys across the state, including here in Chautauqua County.
We also wonder how hard Hochul will push the fight with the state Assembly and Senate. The governor is seeing harsh pushback against Hector D. LaSalle, her nomination to be the next Chief Judge of the state Court of Appeals, a position that oversees the state’s judiciary. If LaSalle isn’t confirmed, it’s a sign Democrats in the legislature view Hochul as weak and will be a bad sign for compromises on things like mental health, crime and spending. That’s what happened in December, when Hochul wanted tweaks to the state’s 2019 criminal justice reforms in exchange for legislative pay raises. Hochul got nothing from the legislature while legislators got the pay raises they wanted.
Hochul said some of the right things last Tuesday. By April, we’ll know whether or not she’s all talk.
Jamestown Post—Journal. January 17, 2023.
Editorial: Hochul’s Leadership On Housing Is Welcomed. Her Path Forward Should Not Be
As we noted last week, 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 problemmatic 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.
New York Post. January 18, 2023.
Editorial: Hochul bulldozed by leftists who want an activist, not a judge, on the state’s top court
In Wednesday’s historic 10-9 rejection of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nominee for chief judge, Hector LaSalle, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s radicals left no doubt about their true goal: They want a judge who’ll ignore the law and base rulings on their agenda — without exception. They all but said so out loud.
A lifelong Democrat, LaSalle laid out his personal political views, making clear he’s a solid pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-diversity liberal: He grew up in a union household, he noted, and “walked the picket line” with his grandma. He backs a woman’s right to make her own “reproductive” decisions and won’t “defend” crisis pregnancy centers that “mislead” clients.
As a prosecutor, he strived to give defendants a “second chance” whenever appropriate. He’d like the high court to be more diverse.
Indeed, if he were seeking a legislative seat, conservatives would rush to oppose him.
His defenders at the hearing also cited his overwhelmingly compelling qualifications to run the state’s courts, not to mention his humble roots and Latino background. Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-Suffolk) called the nominee “the embodiment of the American dream.”
Yet none of that was good enough for hard-left critics. They blasted him for a few cherry-picked cases (out of 5,700) where LaSalle didn’t rule as they liked, claiming they “raised concerns.” Committee Chairman Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) actually admitted that he and others on the committee want the Court of Appeals “to go in a different (political) direction” and bashed LaSalle for once running on the Conservative line (though he was on the Democratic, left-wing Working Families and Independent lines in that same race).
Queens Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D) said lawmakers fret that the state’s top court has “shifted to the right” and demanded to know what LaSalle would do to “remedy that shift.” Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) suggested judges take a “broader reading” of statutes.
Don’t they know the difference between judges and legislators? The former aren’t supposed to be political; they certainly mustn’t go beyond the language of statutes to apply their own “broader views,” as Ramos wants. If they did, what would be the point of democratically elected lawmakers?
Indeed, LaSalle repeatedly insisted he’d love to see new (progressive) laws passed but as a judge he’s “constrained by precedent” and follows “clear statute.”
“Judges’ decision-making is based on the facts and the law, and how you feel personally about a party or issue . . . is not germane,” he said — which was decidedly not what the leftists wanted to hear.
No, they want their way, regardless of law, rules or precedent. They packed the committee to ensure a majority opposed LaSalle and now claim he doesn’t deserve a full vote on the Senate floor. They turned the process into an outrageous partisan circus.
Hochul must now fight to get him a full Senate vote — all the way to the US Supreme Court, if need be.