Pat Kiernan: Earlier this year, Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul came together on the issue of housing, that we need more housing in New York. At the start of the year, they were both in agreement that it’s time to significantly ramp up new construction. That doesn’t happen easily without the cooperation of the state legislature. It’s roughly six months later now it’s looking like the legislative session in Albany will come to a close on Thursday without any meaningful progress on a housing policy. Never say never, but there’s no sign of any big housing deal right now. Mayor Adams is with us this morning for more on the topic. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning. Good to see you, Pat.
Kiernan: I have expressed some frustration here, this year and in other years, about this terrible process in Albany where they rush at the last minute to get a bunch of legislation in just before budget day and then they rush at the last minute to pass legislation in the final week before the legislative session wraps up in June. It doesn’t make for good policy and it means if something doesn’t get in, then everybody waits for a year before something happens. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get much from them on housing.
Mayor Adams: Yes, and it’s unfortunate. And I want you to be clear, we were able to get some important pieces of legislation and policy through Albany and I thank the leadership up there and the governor, but housing is a real issue. When you speak with New Yorkers, it’s among the top three – public safety, housing, and dealing with the asylum seekers – crises that we’re facing. We must get a housing bill passed now. We have to be able to build higher, we need the incentives to build, and we must make sure that we deal with some form of reform around capital projects. And so we can get it done, and I’m hoping that the lawmakers up there understand how important it is.
Kiernan: The governor had pushed forth an aggressive and comprehensive housing plan. She just didn’t find the support she needed to with state legislators. So there would be another chance here if she can’t get that, to go back at this piecemeal and do some minor things that could mean that there’s more housing construction in the city. In these remaining couple of days in Albany, what would you ask them to try to prioritize?
Mayor Adams: Well, first we should put the bills on the floor. Think about it for a moment. We have over 90,000 people in our care now and when you look at the stock of housing, it is just not enough. And so people talk about different things like giving out more vouchers. Those vouchers allow you to get subsidies for affordable housing, but that is not going to solve our problem. They are no projects in the pipeline. The rents are being increased. We need more affordable housing, so I’m hoping that they will allow each bill to be voted on separately. This way, New Yorkers can see what lawmakers is not only talking about affordable housing and building more, but actually voting on that. The pipeline is crucial. We need to vote on the subsidies that’s needed to incentivize affordable housing. We need to allow us to build higher in some parts of the city so we can get more units. These are the crucial things that we should put to the floor to vote on.
Kiernan: Yeah. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting everybody on the record to see where they stand. I want to put up a graphic that shows what has happened in the last few years as far as construction of new affordable housing. Fiscal Year 2020, 30,000 units coming online. Fiscal Year 2021, 29,000. That fell to about half in Fiscal Year 2022. And the last column, there isn’t the full year number, but it’s on pace to be an even smaller number this year. Mayor Adams, mortgage rates are much higher than they were. The 421-a incentive for developers is expiring. This is not going to get better before it gets worse.
Mayor Adams: No, not at all. And often New Yorkers will ask, “Well, why aren’t we having more affordable housing units?” without fully understanding that any inaction that takes place around housing in Albany falls in the lap of these city leaders, and that’s what’s happening here. We need more affordable housing. We need to immediately move at the level of urgency that we are faced with, and I’m really hoping that Albany will vote on each bill independently so New Yorkers can see when that question is asked, we can point to what happened and what individual lawmaker voted against these forms of really sensible changes to incentivize housing. That pipeline you just mentioned of you, what you just showed on the screen, is a real indicator of the crises we are facing.
Kiernan: So do you think that it would be reasonable to get them to do some sort of 421-a extension in the next couple of days?
Mayor Adams: They can do it. They can do it immediately. They can bring these bills to the floor. We can do an up or down vote. I served in Albany. I’m well aware that this could be done. There’s a few days left and I think it’s imperative that we should add housing to the list of good things that will come out of Albany. Some great things are coming out of Albany we were able to partner on, but housing is at the heart of the determination of how well we’re going to do as a city and state, and we need to share the housing regional. That is what the governor attempted to do to look at transit hubs as a way to incentivize more housing in areas.
Kiernan: It’s important to look at this holistically too. We had a rent guidelines board meeting last night. A lot of tenants getting up in front of the members of the rent guidelines board saying, “We just can’t afford a five or 7 percent increase in a lease renewal.” It’s all linked together. The more affordable housing we build, the less pressure there is on people to try to find one of the rent-stabilized departments. It could all help if we took a holistic view of this. As far as the rent guideline situation, Mayor Adams, the tenants are saying that this is just too big an increase, but the landlords are coming back and saying, “We pay the same inflation you do. Prices are a lot higher.”
Mayor Adams: No, and it’s the proper balance. And that is why we independently have a rent guidelines board that will sit down and do a proper balance. We have to make sure that we don’t overburden tenants, and at the same time we have to look at those small property owners because if you are a small property owner and your livelihood is that 10, 12-family house and you can’t find that balance on dealing with the increase in cost, the increase in rent, the increase in labor costs, then those small property owners will lose those homes, and in return then we will have a real affordable housing crisis, because they would be absorbed by large property owners. So it’s finding that balance. Don’t overburden the tenants, but at the same time respect those small property owners that are really suffering as well.
Kiernan: We’re talking about the Albany legislative deadline. You’ve got your own deadline coming up along with the City Council for the next city budget. How is that discussion going? Do you think that that will come together in the next couple of weeks?
Mayor Adams: Oh, we are excited. Conversations are underway. My budget director is sitting down with our team at City Hall, sitting down with the City Council’s team to come up with the right plan. We are not as far apart as people would think we are, and we are hoping that we can sit down and get this done right away. We see what has played out in Washington with the debt ceiling. We don’t need to continue that here in New York City. There are too many important issues that we are facing, and let’s land the plane so that everyone can continue to move the city in the right direction.
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