Today, Newsday published an op-ed by Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas on the New York Housing Compact. Text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.
Long Island needs more housing but exactly how much, where it is built, its affordability, and how increased density impacts the environment are essential questions. With today’s essays, the opinion pages continue to host this vital conversation about our region’s future.
Finding an affordable home in New York has never been more challenging. This crisis affects low and middle-income families looking to buy their first home, young people looking to move out on their own, families that need more space, and seniors who want to retire in their own communities.
In response, Gov. Kathy Hochul has introduced a comprehensive plan, the New York Housing Compact, to create 800,000 homes across the state over the next decade. But as is so often the case with bold proposals, the plan has been the subject of confusion and often inaccurate concerns.
Myth: The Housing Compact overrides local control
The plan sets local housing goals for every community and offers flexibility to meet those goals in whatever way they see fit — by updating zoning requirements, encouraging mixed-use and mixed-income development, reimagining underused shops and offices, or other strategies. Upstate communities would need to grow their housing supply by 1% over three years while communities downstate would have a goal of 3%.
In Bellerose in Nassau County — home to almost 1,250 people with a little over 400 homes — the target would be 12 homes over three years. Great Neck Estates — with roughly 1,000 homes — would have a target of about 30 homes over three years. A larger locality like Patchogue in Suffolk with 9,200 homes would have a target of 175 homes. For about 80% of villages, towns, and cities throughout the state, communities will need to add fewer than 50 new homes over the first three years.
Only if communities choose to not pursue local zoning changes and block developments that would achieve their housing goals would they be subject to a fast-track approval process.
Myth: Its focus on transit-oriented development does not consider the unique nature of Long Island communities
The plan provides a framework for municipalities to determine where and how to add housing near transit hubs — one that is sensitive to Long Island’s unique character. The rezoning tools encourage redevelopment and access to amenities like transit, open space, schools, and parking while providing exceptions for protected forests and wetlands, cemeteries, parks, historic sites, and highways.
Myth: It does not plan for local infrastructure, water supply, and technical support needs
Gov. Hochul's $250 million infrastructure fund will help communities meet the needs that come with new housing construction. The plan also includes $20 million for planning and technical assistance. These new funds follow $1 billion for 247 projects in Nassau and Suffolk to improve wastewater and water supply infrastructure, $500 million in the 2022-23 budget to protect Long Island’s sole source aquifer, and $500 million in her budget proposal last month, including funds to sewer downtown areas near train stations in Huntington Station, Smithtown, and Kings Park.
Myth: There is not enough demand to justify 800,000 units of housing
Demand for housing has skyrocketed. In the past 10 years, New York has created 1.2 million jobs, but built only 400,000 new homes. A Regional Plan Association study found the state needs to build 817,600 new units in the next decade to meet this demand.
We are losing New Yorkers to states like New Jersey and Connecticut that are lowering housing costs. It is critical that we increase our housing supply to remain competitive, accommodate workers, and drive our state’s economy forward.
Myth: The Housing Compact will radically change quality of life in rural and suburban communities
There will be change but it will not be radical. This is a plan for long-term, measured, and sustainable growth over a decade.
Some places on Long Island, like Mineola and Patchogue, have already embraced some of these strategies to boost their communities’ health. In other places, change has been slower. Spreading the goals throughout the region, rather than concentrating growth in a few areas, makes any individual community’s goal manageable.
No one community can fix the housing crisis. By coming together and all doing our part, we can make our communities, our region, and our state a place where neighbors and employers want to stay for generations to come.