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Late New York state budget held up over housing package

This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.
Hans Pennink
Associated Press file photo
This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.

One of the items holding up a deal on the New York state budget — now over 10 days late — is a housing package that would build new affordable housing and strengthen tenant protections.

It’s the second year in a row that Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature have tried to enact plans that would ease the state’s affordable housing crisis. This year, a scaled-back proposal would offer grants to communities that agree to sign a pro-housing pledge. It would also revive a tax break for real estate developers who include affordable housing in their projects.

The biggest sticking point, though, is over tenants’ rights.

Progressives in the Legislature want to enact a proposal known as “Good Cause” eviction. It would prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a good reason and cap rent increases at 3%. Landlord groups are pushing back against the measure, saying it will further depress the long-term rental market.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Robert Ortt said the housing proposal does nothing for areas outside of New York City, and he predicted that Good Cause would be a “disaster.”

“It is essentially tenancy for life,” Ortt said. “Good Cause is nothing more than a direct attack on private property rights in this state.”

Even some Democratic lawmakers have been reluctant to vote on the measure, which died in the Legislature last year.

Meanwhile, tenants’ rights groups fear the measure will be watered down in any final housing agreement.

Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stweart-Cousins said there are a number of moving parts, and nothing has been decided yet.

“We want to be able to build and we want to be able to protect tenants,” said Stewart-Cousins, adding that there are numerous stakeholders involved and both short- and long-term consequences to many elements of the package.

“Attaining and achieving that progress is where we really need to land,” she said.

Stewart-Cousins said she believes a housing package will come together, but she can’t say when.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.