NY gov drops plan to overrule local zoning amid Dem fears for 2024 elections

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed she is dropping an initiative to pass legislation mandating the Empire State expand its housing growth in individual communities as Democrats head into an election season that could prove contentious.

“I’ll work with [the Legislature], but I also have so many priorities, I’m not going to head down the same path we did last year with the exact same plan, in a year that is an election year for members,” Hochul said Thursday at an unrelated event, according to City & State. 

Hochul is readying to release her agenda for 2024, but pursuing legislation that would mandate housing construction will not make the cut, sources previously told City & State. Housing was a cornerstone of Hochul’s agenda after she was elected to four years in office in 2022. 

Hochul attempted to rally the legislature to pass her “New York Housing Compact” earlier this year, which aimed to build 800,000 new homes and affordable housing over the next decade. The plan would have handed the state new authority to override zoning laws in towns that did not want to comply with expanding housing options. 

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The legislation would have required 3% growth in housing across municipalities in the southern portion of New York over three-year cycles, and 1% growth in housing upstate in three-year cycles. If the increase in housing was not met in the municipalities, developers would be able to work with state leaders to execute housing expansions. 

The plan, however, failed in the legislature this spring, after lawmakers, most notably in New York City suburbs, railed against Albany having a say in how municipalities build and regulate housing. Lawmakers and the governor were unable to come to an agreement, and the initiative was tabled. 

“It was an ill-conceived idea by the governor, and I’m excited that the residents stood together with our elected officials,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin, for example, told CBS News in April after the proposal’s failure.

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New York-based Democratic strategist John Tomlin told Fox News Digital that there are “without a doubt” political considerations at play in the decision, which comes ahead of 2024’s election season

“The suburbs of New York are battlegrounds. There are very different places in the Hudson Valley, as well as Long Island that could sway control of the House, as well as important races in those areas for the State Legislature, and those are the areas in particular, that opposed many elements of the governor’s Housing Compact,” Tomlin said. 

“As a result of that, I think she has determined that… there is certainly not a political benefit to pushing for those policies,” he said.

New York Democrats are working to regain six congressional seats this coming election cycle, which could help sway which party controls the U.S. House. 

Hochul, who became the Empire State’s first female governor when disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations, is also fresh off a contentious gubernatorial race against former Republican New York Rep. Lee Zeldin in 2022. Hochul ultimately was elected to a four-year term, capturing 52.9% of the vote to Zeldin’s 47.1%.

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A spokesman for the governor said last week that housing is a top issue for Hochul, and she has focused on her executive action power to address affordable housing concerns following the legislation’s failure. 

“Like 73% of New Yorkers, Governor Hochul believes housing affordability is a major problem,” Avi Small, a spokesperson for the governor, told City & State. “The housing crisis is pushing New Yorkers out-of-state to places like Connecticut and New Jersey that have built thousands more homes over the last decade than New York has.”

“That’s why Governor Hochul proposed the boldest plan in a generation to drive down housing costs by building more supply. After the Legislature flatly rejected it and failed to introduce a viable alternative, Governor Hochul refocused her efforts on sweeping Executive Action that took effect in July,” Small added. 

Communities outside of New York City especially railed against the proposal, with some mayors noting that the high cost of housing in New York is a serious issue, but Albany forcing small towns to increase their housing was the wrong approach. 

“An overwhelming majority of Mayors in Albany agreed that the State as a whole could use more housing and most importantly more affordable housing and are quite supportive of this laudable goal. The problem lies in its execution and the sledgehammer, punitive approach,” Bronxville, New York, Mayor Mary Marvin wrote in a column to the community in February. 

Bronxville is a small village in Westchester County that totals one square mile of land and is home to just over 6,000 people. The mayor explained that under the proposal, Bronxville would have been forced to build 75 new housing units by 2027, “or we lose all control over our local land use laws.” 

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Tomlin said that in areas on Long Island or Westchester County, “the issue of local control” is “very politically potent” and that local leaders do not want the state coming in to “determine one thing or another about a town.” He added that the issue cuts across the political aisle, and sparked the ire of both Democrats and Republicans. 

Hochul’s spokesman continued that the governor is now focused on using her executive powers to address housing issues until the legislature “is ready” to hold serious discussions. 

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“Until the Legislature is ready to come back to the table with a serious approach to build more housing in New York, the Governor is focusing on using her executive powers to address the housing crisis,” he told the outlet. 

Tomlin explained that addressing New York’s housing crisis is a “political winner” for Democrats, “but it has to be the right policy.”

“There is a desperate and dire need for housing in New York. There’s not enough housing supply. Housing is unaffordable for renters, for buyers. Whether you’re in New York City, whether you’re in the suburbs. This is a crisis in New York,” Tomlin said. He argued that converting empty office space into housing, for example, could garner support from both Republicans and Democrats. 

After Hochul publicly confirmed she was dropping the pursuit of mandating housing expansion, the governor spotlighted that she is still committed to repairing the state’s housing crisis. 

“I’m going to make sure we get there. Will it be in 10 years? Hopefully, I’ll be around long enough to make sure we do,” she said last week. 

Fox News Digital reached out to the governor’s office, but did not immediately receive a reply. 

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