Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed Housing Compact can be truly transformational – increasing affordability, improving sustainability, combatting systemic racism and encouraging regional economic growth in all corners of the state.
This bold plan challenges entrenched anti-development special interests and is critical to addressing New York’s affordable housing crisis. But it can’t be realized if opponents who protect the status quo win the day.
It is critical to understand how the Housing Compact will benefit Buffalo.
New York needs to build more than 800,000 housing units, a 9.8% increase over the current stock, during the next decade to address the current lack of affordable housing and meet expected population and job growth. Here in Buffalo, over half of all renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and 23% of renters pay more than half.
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The Housing Compact will require and fund housing growth – which, in turn, lowers rents across the region. Downstate localities will have a housing growth target of 3% over three years, with a 1% target upstate during the same period. Affordable housing developments and formerly abandoned properties will be given extra weight during the calculation process, and local governments will have control over what growth looks like.
The proposed rezoning mandates contained in the Compact also challenge zoning practices that segregate neighborhoods across Buffalo and the state. Single-family zoned communities are predominantly white, while communities with multifamily homes are mainly inhabited by people of color. New development is often restricted to neighborhoods with limited access to transportation, education and public space, furthering inequities and making cycles of poverty difficult to break.
When towns refuse to invest in multifamily development or amend inherently racist land use policies, they only further amplify patterns of racial segregation. The Compact ensures that all communities are doing their fair share to expand affordable multifamily development in areas that need it most and will most benefit both residents and communities alike.
Transit-oriented development also ensures new housing growth aligns with state climate goals by promoting walkable communities. When people have access to public transportation, it lowers the need for car usage and reduces emissions.
On top of all this, affordable development is good for regional economic growth. Every 100 units of affordable housing production have been shown to generate $46 million in economic spending during construction and $10 million in economic spending annually.
Residents across the state need a comprehensive solution to escalating housing costs. What we are doing now isn’t working. Gov. Hochul has advanced a plan to move the state forward and build the housing we desperately need. Now it’s up to us to ensure that vision becomes a reality.
Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.