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Local Law Need Not Apply

Wed, 02/07/2024 - 18:04


Watch out, East End, an affordable housing proposal like that which rattled local governments on Long Island may be rolling out again from the State Capitol. It would create a New York State social housing development authority that would be responsible for increasing the supply of permanent affordable places for people to live.

A State Senate bill to create the authority would be pegged to a $5 billion initial investment with another $75 million a year for its operation and staff. The authority would have the money and the muscle to buy land and put up new housing and rehab existing sites. These would be mixed-income projects designed to keep a significant portion of rents below a quarter of qualifying residents’ income. As a stand-alone agency, the housing authority would be able to work with private nonprofits, as well as municipal governments and land banks. It would be able to support everything from single-family houses to huge apartment complexes.

A big concern for the state’s local governments is that the authority would have the power to overrule local land-use regulations. As with Ms. Hochul’s plan, it could supersede zoning and planning law to achieve its aims. Clearly, anything that can sidestep hard-won zoning rules should be viewed warily. For example, a move by the East Hampton Town Board to exempt its large proposed senior citizens center in Amagansett has outraged a good number of residents.

A massive state bureaucracy would likely be unwilling or unable to make sure that its projects did not overwhelm local services. Hemmed in on nearly all sides by water, the East End might not be a place where large-scale developments could realistically be squeezed in. Far better would be for lawmakers to provide support in the form of cash to ground-level organizations able to do the work in greater harmony with the wishes of the communities in which they function. 

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