Housing negotiations underway ahead of budget deal

With help from Shawn Ness

New from New York

Happening now

  • Republican fix for rise in antisemitism.
  • A potential codification of refugee services.
  • The state legislature will vote on the first 10 budget bills on Thursday.
  • New city government hiring practices.

The state Legislature is having high-level housing negotiations, but lawmakers are struggling with the finer details.

High-level housing discussions are underway in Albany on the particulars of a hotly-debated property tax break and a contentious policy to effectively restrict rent hikes in market-rate housing.

But lawmakers have yet to settle the details of major proposals as they seek to strike a wide-ranging deal on the issue in this year’s budget.

Here are the main threads we’re following as negotiations enter the final stretch:

– What’s happening on tenant protections?

Proposals that boost housing construction will almost certainly need to be paired with some form of tenant protections to make it through the state Legislature.

To that end, officials are currently negotiating a more limited version of a proposal known as “good cause” eviction, including a potential carveout for newer buildings and a higher effective cap on rent hikes. And as proponents of the bill have pushed back on efforts to limit the policy to New York City, some legislators have pitched a version that would instead allow localities to opt out of the measure, people familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A deal “must include tenant protections, and aligned with the principles of ‘good cause’,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Wednesday.

– What’s next on developer tax incentives?

The stalemate between the real estate industry and construction unions on wage standards attached to 421-a could complicate a potential housing deal — but Stewart-Cousins said she’s not intervening just yet.

“It would be premature,” Stewart-Cousins told reporters, responding to a letter from eight trade unions calling on lawmakers to step in to set labor standards.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are discussing affordable housing requirements that would be attached to a new tax break, which is one of Mayor Eric Adams’ top priorities in Albany this year. City officials have put forward parameters to legislators on affordability levels they would want to see, people familiar with the talks told POLITICO — specifically, an affordable housing set-aside in 421-a buildings averaging at 60 to 80 percent of the area median income.

– Will rent-regulation changes make it into a final deal?

The real estate industry is pushing to roll back sweeping 2019 changes to the rent-regulation system — but their asks remain a tall order in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. — Janaki Chadha

The Senate Republican Conference wants to pass a multi-bill package to address the rise in antisemitism.

RISE IN ANTISEMITISM: Senate Republicans want to address the rise in antisemitism since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

They are advancing a legislative package to prohibit both flying a Nazi flag and giving tuition assistance to college students who knowingly engaged in promoting antisemitism, expand the definition of a hate crime to include trespassing at houses of worship and mandate sensitivity training on antisemitism.

“We're going to continue to speak out against antisemitism. We're going to continue to speak up for New Yorkers, Jewish New Yorkers and Jews across the world and certainly the nation of Israel,” Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said.

There was a 337 percent increase in antisemitic incidents after Oct. 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Anti-Muslim incidents rose 180 percent, according to published reports.

Lawmakers cited an increase in Jewish people attempting to hide their religion on college campuses. “And I've had people tell me, my child can no longer wear a yarmulke in public or has to hide their Star of David. There's no place for them,” state Sen. Jack Martins said. “There's no place for hate anywhere.” — Shawn Ness

PSYCHIATRIC CARE: Statewide capacity for inpatient psychiatric care decreased by 10.5 percent, or 990 beds, to 8,457 beds between April 2014 and December 2023, according to a report released today by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office. The reduction in capacity at state-run psychiatric hospitals, which provide long-term care for people with severe mental illnesses, accounted for nearly three-quarters of the decline in beds. And 20 counties across New York have no inpatient psychiatric beds at all, the report found.

Meanwhile, the estimated prevalence of mental illness grew from 17.5 percent in the years 2013 and 2014 to just over 21 percent of the New York population, a 2021-2022 federal survey found.

DiNapoli is urging policymakers to continue working with community hospitals to address barriers to restoring nearly 850 psychiatric beds that were repurposed during the pandemic, under a directive issued by Gov. Kathy Hochul in early 2023.

“With the COVID pandemic behind us, New York must redouble its efforts to restore inpatient psychiatric bed capacity and preserve and expand telehealth services,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

However, the state’s mental health system is also serving more New Yorkers. Nearly 900,000 people received services from state-licensed mental health programs in 2022, up from about 729,000 in 2013, the comptroller’s report found. The state has also seen increased usage of telehealth services for mental health care as inpatient capacity and utilization have gone down, pointing to the rising popularity of other models of care. Maya Kaufman

Mayor Eric Adams'

NOW HIRING: City government hiring halls are including private employers too, and there’s a new city website for job-seekers.

It’s part of Mayor Eric Adams’ “Jobs NYC” initiative, which also includes changing the minimum qualifications for some city jobs to no longer require a bachelor’s degree — part of the skills-based hiring movement.

“We have thousands of jobs that are open in city government,” Adams said at a press conference today outside a hiring hall in Brownsville Brooklyn. “Everything from school safety agents, to entry level, to tech jobs. There are so many jobs that are open but it's just too darn difficult to make that connection.”

Tens of thousands of city jobs are empty, as workers left for higher pay and work-from-home flexibility. And they weren’t filled, as Adams slowed hiring, then put in a hiring freeze that was only recently lifted.

And the private sector job market in the city has been strong, as Adams constantly reminds New Yorkers with the slogan: “Crime is down, jobs are up.” — Jeff Coltin

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nader Sayegh want to pass a bill that would codify refugee services.

REFUGEE SERVICES: State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nader Sayegh want to codify the “I Heart Refugees Act” to protect refugee services from being cut by future presidential administrations.

The bill would establish the refugee resettlement program with a goal of delivering economic stability and social self-sufficiency to refugees.

“We've seen efforts from the prior administration to dismantle refugee resettlement programs. We've seen severely curtailing refugees being accepted into this country under the prior administration. And we don't want to face those risks again,” Gounardes said at a news conference in the Capitol. “So the ‘I Heart Refugees Act’ would essentially codify New York's incredibly successful refugee resettlement program once and for all.”

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees most of the state’s refugee programs, provides mental health, resettlement and educational services to over 40,000 refugees across the state with various programs. One of the bill’s goals is to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency for refugees.

“And I gotta tell you in reaching out and looking at cases in Buffalo and Yonkers and Syracuse and across our state where there's been a refugee resettlement project, individuals brought with them skills and passion and hard work and commitment, and have revitalized the economies of those communities. So it's a win-win,” Sayegh, the Assemby’s bill sponsor said. — Shawn Ness

CONGESTION PRICING: The MTA formally approved new tolls for drivers coming into Manhattan’s central business district south of 60th Street.

The 11-1 vote today is as anticlimactic as it is historic. The future of the tolling program is being challenged in court and remains uncertain.

Following decades of debate and years of planning, congestion pricing — daytime tolls of $15 for many cars and more for trucks — is meant to attack traffic and pollution in New York City and raise billions to invest in the region’s bus and subway system.

Transit authority CEO Janno Lieber said the board's action was a “big day for the MTA, huge day for the region.”

But there are five federal lawsuits trying to undo the day's accomplishment. Federal judges in New Jersey and New York are expected to hear arguments in those cases and rule on them before mid-June, when the MTA hopes to start charging tolls.

Ironically, the lawsuits, including one brought by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, allege the tolls will increase local air pollution in some neighborhoods as trucks clog certain roads to avoid tolls. The MTA expects air pollution to decline overall.

The tolling plan also still needs perfunctory approval from the Biden administration. — Ry Rivard

BUDGET WATCH: The Democratic-led chambers of the Legislature on Thursday will vote on the first of 10 budget bills, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters this morning.

The debt service bill is a key albeit pro forma portion of the budget. Passing it by Thursday would mean the measure is in place by the time the state’s fiscal year changes next Tuesday.

But a full budget deal by early next week is increasingly unlikely: Lawmakers will leave Albany after Thursday for the Good Friday and Easter holiday weekend.

New York lawmakers will also likely approve a temporary budget stop-gap bill when they return to the Capitol that day. Nick Reisman

NEW UTILITY REGULATORS CONFIRMED: Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first nominees for the state’s powerful utility regulator are set to be confirmed during the Senate session on Wednesday. They are Uchenna Bright, the Democratic nominee who has previously worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Denise Sheehan, a Republican who was previously commissioner at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Bright will take former Gov. Andrew Cuomo aide John Howard’s seat, while Sheehan will fill Republican Diane Burman’s seat. Bright during her confirmation hearing emphasized the costs of climate change and the benefits of taking action to fight it. “We are giving New Yorkers more options, not less when we’re thinking about this transition we’re expanding the options for people to choose equipment,” Bright said.

Sheehan expressed confidence that the state can meet its near-term energy and climate goals, but said the long term ones are more challenging. Sheehan, who has consulted for the battery storage industry’s main state trade group, noted major decisions facing the commission about the 2040 “zero emissions” goal for the electric sector.

The annual salary for a member of the PSC is $170,000 and it is statutorily a full time position. A previous commissioner and current chair of the Long Island Power Authority, Tracey Edwards, made more than $250,000 from consulting work while on the PSC. Asked whether there should be limits on outside income for the commissioners, Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger said she’d have to look at the current rules. “I think there should be some, I just don’t know if there are, and if there aren’t, what we should do about it,” she said. — Marie J. French

RAP LEGENDS VISIT ALBANY: Kurtis Blow, who became the first rapper signed to a major label in 1979 and formerly chaired the Bronx’s Hip Hop Museum, visited the halls of the Capitol this week.

Blow spent time with lawmakers like Speaker Carl Heastie (“a good friend of mine”). He’s “trying to stop the violence of our youth” and hoping to win Albany’s support for a new holiday in August.

“One thing we’re trying to do is a special holiday called the No Profanity Day,” Blow said in an interview. “For 24 hours, the whole city does not use profanity.”

Rapper Nas was also in the Capitol today, where he met with legislators and was introduced on the chamber floors. Nas has been working with Resorts World Casino in Queens as it hopes to speed up the process of licensing new casinos. — Bill Mahoney

— State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has declared six state villages to be in fiscal stress. (State of Politics)

— Almost one million New Yorkers could lose out on their 2020 tax refunds if they don’t claim them soon. (Daily News)

— The driver whose passenger fatally shot an NYPD officer is facing weapons charges, the man accused of the shooting is also facing charges. (Newsday)

By: Janaki Chadha
Title: Housing negotiations underway ahead of budget deal
Sourced From: www.politico.com/newsletters/new-york-playbook-pm/2024/03/27/housing-negotiations-underway-ahead-of-budget-deal-00149354
Published Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2024 15:03:13 EST

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I'm a writer for lifestyle publications, and when I'm not crafting stories, you'll find me cherishing moments with my family, including my lovely daughter. My heart also belongs to my pets—Sushi, Snowy, Belle, and Pepper. Besides writing, I enjoy watching movies and exploring new places through travel.