The New York State Legislature brought its 2021 session to a close in the late night hours of June 10th as planned. For not for profit housing interests, it was a busy, productive session that included a $212 billion state budget with historic increases in spending for affordable housing. The session also saw the creation of a number new housing programs and the passage of bills that impact housing.
NYS Rural Advocates has discussed details of the newly adopted State Budget on several occasions but we need to comment here on the historic nature of the overall spending plan. Spending on the affordable housing accounts we follow increased by over 300 per cent over the budget adopted in March of 2020. Much of the increased spending can be attributed to funds provided through federal COVID relief measure while core funding for the State’s cadre of housing program came from more familiar sources.
The adopted budget increased spending in the Capital Projects Fund from $230 million to nearly $900 million with a fresh infusion of $186 million to fund supportive housing efforts and a $325 million investment in the State’s public housing stock. Another large increase in capital spending results from a $100 million fund to support the conversion of vacant hotels and other commercial space to provide homeless housing.
The $600 million increase in cash spending on housing from the Aid to Localities bill is entirely attributable to the investment of federal COVID funds in programs intended to protect homeownership. Of this amount, the Homeownership Protection Program (HOPP) is to receive $20 million a year for three years to support the program’s ongoing foreclosure intervention program. The balance of these funds will be available to provide direct assistance to homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.
A number of bills impacting affordable housing were passed, many in the last hours of the session. The Affordable Housing Corporation statue was amended to increase per unit funding caps from $35 to $50 thousand. In State designated high cost areas the limit was increased from $40 to $75 thousand. The amended statute will also make provision for optional long term affordability requirements on grants of over $40 thousand. The statutory changes will not take effect for 240 days from passage which Rural Advocates hope will provide the Legislature with time to increase overall funding for AHC in order to absorb the increased per unit levels.
The Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act provides implementing authority for the $100 million included in the budget to provide for the conversion of distressed hotels into permanent housing for homeless individuals. This bill had initially been proposed as a New York City initiative but after input from Upstate and Rural interests, the final bill creates a statewide program that will allow the state to acquired vacant hotels and other commercial buildings on behalf of not for profits that will in turn provide high quality, permanent housing.
A bill sponsored by Senate Housing Chair Kavanagh and Assembly Chair Cymbrowitz will required state agencies to undertake efforts to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing. Similar to federal efforts in this regard, the law will require state agencies that fund affordable housing to take steps to identify barriers to fair housing and to take proactive steps to ameliorate those barriers. Several other fair housing bills also passed including a bill to require additional training for real estate practitioners related to fair housing and housing bias.
The entire affordable housing advocacy community supported a bill to make the Five Year Housing Capital Plan a permanent part of New York State’s approach to affordable housing. The Capital Plan will require that Governor’s routinely offer multi-year commitments to programs and funding allowing developers and other housing professional to plan complex development plans over a period of time while being secure that the funding they need will be in place when the time comes to submit their proposals. The first Five Year Capital Plan provided regular infusions of funding in programs like Main Street and the Manufactured Home Replacement Program. NYS Rural Advocates will be calling for the Affordable Housing Corporation Program to be included in the next Five Year Plan.
Among the affordable housing bills to pass at end of session was a bill that would allow NPCs and RPCs to include “landlord training” as an eligible activity under their HCR contracts. We note that a handful of organizations participate in this activity all ready and Rural Advocates is hoping to see additional local landlord training take place under this provision.
For all of the affordable housing successes in the 2021 session, the Legislature left plenty on the table for Rural Advocates to work on in 2022. As mentioned above, an increased appropriation for AHC will once again be at the top of our list. We also expect to press for the permanent creation of the Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program and for a new Senior Rental Housing Capital and Services program.