NYS Legislature Offers Alternative Budget Plans

On Tuesday, March 14, 2023 the New York State Senate and Assembly released their respective “one house” budget plans.  Presented as resolutions, the one house budget bills are the formal response to Governor Hochul’s executive budget and they provide the template for the three way negotiations that will result in an FY 2024 New York State Budget.

New York State Rural Advocates are pleased and proud that the one house bills reflect a number of Advocates’ priorities including a proposed increase for RPC/NPC funding to roughly $125,000 in the contract that would begin in June of 2023.

Other Rural Advocates’ priorities included in the one house bills are increases for the RESTORE and Access to Home Programs.  In the current budget RESTORE is funded at $3.4 million.  In her executive budget, Governor Hochul returns RESTORE to the $1.4 million level.  The Senate proposes to fund RESTORE at $6 million and the Assembly is suggesting returning the program to $3.4.  Access to Home is funded in the Governor’s budget at $1 million as it has been for many years.  The Assembly would increase Access to $2 million and the Senate would take it to $3 million.

Both houses included funding for the Small Rental Development program that Advocates have actively supported since the SRDI demonstration program in 2017.  The Senate would provide $20 million for a small rental development program, the Assembly is offering $10 million.

Both houses restore $40 million to support the foreclosure intervention activities of the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP).  The Legislature also proposes to restore funding for land banks.

Both houses of the Legislature reject Governor Hochul’s Housing Compact as presented.  The Legislature would remove the mandatory targets and zoning overrides in favor of an incentive-based approach.  For example, Legislators would generously fund the Governor’s Infrastructure Support Fund and there is language in both one house bills that would establish an affordable housing committees to study approaches to increasing the State’s housing stock.

There has been much talk in the last two years about the need to create a rental voucher program to support homeless and other high need households. Both houses propose $250 million to fund the Housing Access Voucher program (HAVP) as detailed in A.4021 (Rosenthal) and S. 568 (Kavanagh).   The Senate and Assembly also propose additional funding for the NYC Housing Authority and the Senate would also provide additional capital funding for Upstate Housing Authorities.

With all three budget proposals on the table, negotiations on a 2024 State Budget have begun in earnest.  The budget is due by COB on March 31 but there is growing talk in Albany the this budget could be late as the Governor and the Legislature wrangle over a host of issues including bail reform, charter schools, taxes and a host of other issues.

Stay tuned!

Hochul Budget Focuses on Housing Policy

New York Governor Kathy Hochul released her proposed 2024 state budget on Wednesday. For rural not for profit housing agencies, this budget is much more a policy statement than a budget. By contrast, the 2023 budget was all about money – $4.5 billion in housing capital to be spent over the next five years and as a result of last year’s huge commitment, this 2024 housing budget represents a return to more traditional spending patterns.

By NYS Rural Advocates calculations, the Governor is proposing to allocate just over $400 million for affordable housing in the proposed FY 24 year budget. As has long been the practice of New York Governors, the Hochul budget takes back most of the additional funding added in negotiations with the Legislature last year. The Rural and Neighborhood Preservation Programs were each reduced by the one hundred thousand dollars that was included last year in order to increase support for the Rural and Neighborhood Coalitions. The RESTORE program was cut from the $3.4 million to $1.4 million. Included is a proposed increase for the Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC). AHC was funded at $26 million for several years but last year received an increase to $36 million. Although the AHC appropriation appears to be $40.5 million it also appears that $14.5 million of that is headed to a non traditional AHC program and therefore, the AHC appropriation has also been reset to budgets before the last.

The other major capital programs were funded at traditional levels including $44.2 million for the Housing Trust Fund, $1 million for Access to Home, $4.2 million for the NY Main Street program and $14 million for Homes for Working Families. The Hocul budget would also eliminate the $7 million included last year to support the Small Rental Development Initiative.

There are some additions to the Capital Projects Fund including $50 million for the Homeowner Stabilization Fund, a new line for a $20 million Lead Abatement Program and a whopping $250 million to an Infrastructure Support Fund. After years of advocating for funds to be directed to the the little Infrastructure Development Demonstration Program (IDDP), Rural Advocate’s will be pressing for the new Infrastructure Fund to include much needed support for private sewer and water in rural areas.

The Governor’s budget proposal leans heavily on funding from the Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF) where she would provide $5.360 million for RPCs and $12,830,000 for NPCs. As is traditionally the case, the Governor does not provide for funding for the NP Coalition and the Rural Housing Coalition. These line items will have to be included in budget language agreed to by the Governor and the Legislature. Also coming from the MIF are $21.710 million for Rural Rental Assistance and $50.780 million for the Homeless Support programs administered by the Office of Temporary and Disability insurance.

If you are looking for funding for Mobile Home replacement, Accessory Dwelling Units, Homeownership programs or senior housing, please look to the 5 year Housing Capital Plan funded in 2023 included in the table below.

Much of the ink expended on the Governor’s housing budget is devoted to the non-budgetary items she includes. The headlines focus on Hochul’s commitment to building 800,000 new housing units over the next ten years. She plans on achieving this goal through a series of actions including a sure to be controversial carrot and stick approach using local housing targets that would require that downstate communities produce a 3% increase in housing stock over three years. Upstate communities will need to produce a one percent increase over the same three years. The Division of Housing will be tasked with providing support for housing production through Planning and Infrastructure Grants and by removing obstacles to housing approvals. To review the entire package of the Governor’s housing policy proposals see the Human Services Briefing Book.

NYS Legislature Adopts the 2022/2023 State Budget: Rural Affordable Housing Asks are Included

April 11, 2022

After some starts and stops, the New York State Legislature began passing FY 2023 budget bills Thursday evening and finished their work in the early morning hours of Saturday. 

A review of the published budget bills finds that Rural and Neighborhood Preservation Programs are essentially flat funded with RPCs set to receive $ 5.460 million from the Mortgage Insurance Fund, an increase of one hundred thousand dollars that would cover increased funding for the Rural Housing Coalition.  RHC is set to receive $250,000 in the coming contract cycle.  Also funded from MIF is the Rural Rental Assistance Program that will receive $ 21.6 million to continue fully funding the Section 515 RA program.

The Capital Projects budget contains funding for several of NYS Rural Advocate’s priorities.  Recognizing increased demand and the impact of recent changes to the program, The Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) which has long been funded at $26 million will receive a $10 million bump to $36 million in the 2023 budget.   The historically oversubscribed RESTORE program which provides emergency home repairs for seniors will also be increased from $1.4 million to $3.4 million.  In another important win for Rural Advocates, the Capital Projects Fund will also include $7 million for an updated version of the Small Rental Development Initiative (SRDI).

After extensive lobbying by the entire affordable housing community, funding for the 5-year Affordable Housing Capital Plan remained as the Governor had initially proposed at $4.405 billion.  That amount includes $20 million for the Mobile and Manufactured Housing Replacement Program.  It is important to note that the MMHRP has still not been formally created in Statue and this is business we hope to address later in the Legislative session.   The five year capital plan also includes $400 million for homeownership programs with details of the program remaining to be ironed out.

The newly enacted budget will provide funding to continue support of the Homeownership Protection Program (HOPP) at $35 million, an increase over the $20 million proposed by the Governor.  The budget will also provide nearly a billion dollars to support an emergency rental assistance program to be administered by OTDA and intended to provide very low income households that are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The budget will also provide $50 million for a one time program for service and expense of Land Banks.

Governor Hochul Proposes $5 billion Housing Budget

January 18, 2022, Albany New York

New York Governor Kathy Hochul today introduced her first executive budget proposal totaling $216 billion.  The proposal projects balanced budgets out six years as the result of better than expected income and sales tax revenues and massive amounts of federal COVID relief dollars.

Affordable Housing has been a prominent topic of discussion, speculation and advocacy over the past several months and the result is a proposal that would commit a total of over $5 billion dollars including $4.5 billion in housing capital funds that will be invested over five years.

Rural Advocate’s preliminary analysis finds that most New York State’s traditional housing programs were flat funded in this executive proposal.  This is true for the programs that most concern Rural Advocate’s members with RPC funded from the Mortgage Insurance fund (MIF) at $5.36 million which is expected to result in 2022 RPC contracts at or near the funding level of the past several years.  The LPA programs are proposed to be similarly flat funded with RESTORE funded at $1.4 million, Access to Home at $1 million and New York Main Street at $4.2 million.  New York State Rural Rental Assistance (RRAP) is proposed for $21.6 million which is expected to fully cover existing contracts.

Particularly disappointing is the proposal to leave the Affordable Housing Corporation program (AHC) funded at $26 million which is one million dollars more than this important program received in 1985.  The other big capital housing programs are also proposed to be funded at recent levels with the Housing Trust Fund slated to receive $44.2 million, Homes for Working Families will see $14 million and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program will again be funded at a robust $128 million.

As expected, the Governor also proposed to fund a new 5-year housing capital plan touted in the State of the State address as a $25 billion initiative to create or preserve 100,000 units over the life of the plan.  According to budget documents, this plan is based on actual State appropriations totaling $4.5 billion dollars, an increase of $2 billion over the first five year plan.

The largest investments in the proposed five year plan include $1.5 billion for the development of Supportive Housing and another $1 billion for new multifamily construction.  Also included are $300 million for the development of Senior Housing and $90 million for the development of middle income housing.

Rural Advocates are encouraged by 5-year plan commitments to invest in programs that impact Upstate and rural New York including an additional $80 million for the Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund (CIF), and new program of $450 million for multifamily preservation, $150 million for upstate Public Housing, $20 million to support Manufactured Home programs and $60 million for Small Building Rehab and New Construction.  The 5-year proposal earmarks $400 million for Homeownership Programs and several new initiatives including $85 million for a program to promote and develop Accessory Dwelling Units and $250 million to support the electrification of existing affordable housing.

NYS Rural Advocates 2022 Budget Recommendations

  • Rural Preservation is an important strategy for addressing the unique challenges of rural affordable housing.  We call for full funding of $100,000/ year for sixty Rural Preservation Companies and a carve-out of $250,000 to support the Rural Housing Coalition’s training and technical assistance functions.   Recommended 2022 funding: $6.25 million
  • NYS Rural Advocates supports the New York Housing Conference’s Recommended 2022 funding for a new five year affordable housing capital plan.   Recommended 2022 funding: $6 billion
  • In late December 2021 Governor Hochul signed A.4341/S.3372 to increase the Affordable Housing Corporation program’s per unit funding limits putting additional pressure on AHC after 35 years of flat funding.  Now is the time to increase the AHC appropriation.  Recommended 2022 funding: $50 million.
  • New York’s smaller communities do not have access to funding to support the development of appropriately scaled rental housing.    Rural Advocates call for the creation of a SRDI like small project initiative within HCR’s Office of Community Renewal.  Recommended 2022 funding: $20 million
  • The lack of public infrastructure constitutes a serious impediment to the development of all forms of housing in rural communities.  NYS Rural Advocates calls for new funding for the Infrastructure Development Demonstration Program (IDDP, Article 21 of Private Housing Finance Law).  Recommended 2022 funding: $25 million
  • Homelessness continues at crisis levels in rural New York.  We support continued aggressive funding for the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) and its associated services programs.  Recommended 2022 funding: $128 million for HHAP and $45 million for associated services
  • New Yorker State is currently facing unprecedented rates of mortgage delinquency, tax default and increased threats to homeownership.  In order to address these challenges, NYS Rural Advocates support robust funding for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP).  Recommended 2022 funding:  $35 million
  • Rural New York is home to thousands of low income elderly and disabled homeowners.  Given the area’s older housing stock and the overall lack of economic resources, Rural Advocates support increased funding for the important HOPE/RESTORE and ACCESS to Home programs.  Recommended 2022 funding: $3 million for HOPE/RESTORE and $3 million for Access to Home.
  • The Rural Rental Assistance Program (RRAP) provides essential rent subsidies to some of our State’s lowest income households.  NYS Rural Advocates supports the continued partnership between New York State and USDA Rural Development.  Recommended 2022 funding: $23 million
  • Manufactured Housing is a critical component of the rural housing stock and an important source of housing for low income, rural New Yorkers.  Rural Advocates calls for additional funding for the Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program (MMHRP) and for the Manufactured Home Advantage Program MHAP).  Recommended 2022 funding: $3 million for MMHRP and $5 million the MHAP.
  • The New York Main Street Program (NYMS) is a proven tool for revitalizing our State’s downtown commercial and residential elements.  New York State Rural Advocates call for a funding increase to support an expanded program and the development of a New York State Main Street Center to support the capacity to deliver these programs.  Recommended 2022 funding: $10 million
  • The sponsors and managers of affordable rental housing for seniors in our state are being overwhelmed by the human services demands of an aging population. Rural Advocates urge the establishment of a Services Coordinator Program to provide operators of affordable housing with resources and programmatic support to better meet the needs of our low income residents.    Recommended 2022 funding: $10 million
  • New York State Rural Advocates and its members find New York State’s reimbursement funding model to be counterproductive and we strongly recommend that the approach be reconsidered.

State of State Address Highlights Affordable Housing

New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her first State of the State today (January 5, 2022).  Resuming a traditional approach to the speech, the Governor addressed members of the State Legislature from the historic Assembly Chamber.  The Governor appeared to deliver the one hour speech without the benefit of notes or even a visible teleprompter.

New York Governor’s State of the State speeches are always built on extensive lists of proposals – some of which are enacted and many others that die a quiet or not so quiet death.  This address contained enough proposals to fill a 235 page briefing book with nearly 20 pages devoted to homelessness and affordable housing. 

Affordable housing advocates had to be delighted when the Governor began her discussion of housing by proposing new Comprehensive 5-year housing plan that would create or preserve 100,000 units with a headline grabbing $25 billion price tag.   We can expect to see details of the proposed 5-year plan in a week or two when Governor Hochul will present her budget address and simultaneously release her detailed Executive Budget.

Reflecting the first five year plan, the Governor proposes an aggressive program to create and preserve 10,000 supportive housing units.  She also proposes $300 million for the new construction and preservation of senior housing across the state.

Among the more innovative proposals she proposes to encourage the creation of accessory dwelling units and a pilot project to create homeownership projects that prioritize resident control and permeant affordability.  She also proposes to weatherize and electrify our housing stock and to otherwise spur innovation in affordable housing.

Governor Hochul addressed a number of rural housing issues that have been raised by NYS Rural Advocates.  From the briefing book she proposed to improve the housing stock of rural rental properties and to make financing more accessible and affordable for manufactured homes.

NYS Rural Advocates’ 40th Annual Meeting takes place in Cooperstown

The board and members of the New York State Rural Advocate converged on Cooperstown on November fifteen and sixteenth for the organization’s 40th annual meeting.  Attendees voted to install two new members to the Rural Advocates Board of Directors and reelected four current members. 

New board members are April Ramadhan, executive director of the Rural Revitalization Corporation serving Cattaraugus County and Jaylyn Heames who has recent been named executive director of Snow Belt housing in Lewis County.  Board members elected to a renewed, two year term include M.T. (Peg) O’Leary of the Community Services Program in southern Dutchess County, Tracy Gibeau, Albany County Rural Housing Alliance, Barb Lamphere, Barb Lamphere Consulting and Bruce Misarski, executive director of  the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County.  The new and reelected members join seated members Julie Chevalier of Community Progress, Inc,; Renee Bloom, Keuka Housing Council; Ron Filmer, Schoharie Rural Preservation Company,: Jill Alcorn,  Genesee Valley Rural Preservation Company, Antonia Besculides, Western Catskills Community Revitalization Council,; Joshua Freifeld, Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvements Corp.; Larry Krajeski, Catskill Mountain Housing Development Corp, and  Sheila Neville, Construction Management Associates, LLC

NYS Rural Advocates Board of Directors reorganizational meeting at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, November 16

With annual meeting business out of the way, the two dozen members gathered at the Otesaga and several other members joining by zoom went on to discuss a wide range of issues impact the work of community based housing organizations in rural New York State.  The group focused their attention on several issues areas including manufactured housing, Small rental projects, the development of homeownership opportunities and the operation of the  Office of Community Renewal’s Local Programs.

Later in the day, the gathering was joined via zoom by Assembly Housing Chair Steven Cymbrowitz and the Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. Construction and Community Development.  The conversation with the Housing Chairs focused on several current issues including the renewal of the State’s Five Year Housing Capital Plan, the status of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and efforts to “green up” New York’s housing development efforts.

Before the meeting adjourned, Rural Advocates members took time out to celebrate two of our colleagues who have long been long time supporters of Rural Advocates.  Virginia (Ginny) Bates has been a fixture in rural New York advocacy and program delivery for all of three decades.  Once a program specialist at Steuben Church People Against Poverty (later known as Arbor Development), Ginny moved on to a role supporting program delivery for several southern tier and Finger Lakes housing groups.  Ginny’s husband Bob was one of three original incorporators of New York State Rural Advocates in 1981 and was an active in the Section 515 rural rental housing program.  Although Bob has since moved on to be a vintner and restaurateur, the products of his affordable housing work all across rural New York.   

On Tuesday the 16th,  NYS Rural Advocates Board held its annual reorganizational meeting at the Otesaga.   After seating the newly elected board members, board reelected the current slate of officers with Julie Chevalier as Chair, Peg O’Leary vice chair (though it is agreed that Julie and Peg will function as co-chairs), Ron Filmer as treasurer and Renee Bloom as secretary.

The board went on to continue their discussion of a proposed 2022 budget recommendations and the broader legislative agenda and refine plans for Rural Advocates’ annual Legislative gathering in Albany scheduled for February 23,2022.

2021 New York State Legislative Session Comes to an End

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.

New York State FY 2022 – Housing Budget Analysis

Homeowner Protection Program granted three years of funding.  The Affordable Housing Corporation receives $25 million increase.

In the late night hours of April 6, The New York State Legislature adopted the State’s FY 2022 budget – only five days late.

While the outline of the housing portion of the budget looks very much as proposed by Governor Cuomo, there are some very significant additions. 

In the Capital Projects bill, the Affordable Housing Corporation was allocated a total of $51 million.  The $25 million addition to AHC is set aside to fund a vacant property program that will involve the renovation of vacant and blighted homes for first-time homebuyers. The agreement between the Legislature and the Governor also included the Governor’s proposal to commit $100 million to the conversion of vacant hotels and other commercial in NYC to use as affordable housing.  Legislative leaders won a $325 million fund to provide capital improvements for the State’s public housing authorities.  Of the total amount $200 million will be allocated to the New York City Housing Authority with the remaining $125 million to be invested statewide.  The budget agreement also retains the proposed $186 million commitment to continue work on Governor Cuomo’s pledge to create 6000 new units of supportive housing.

The state funded local programs used by RPCs remained flat funded with RESTORE provided with $1.4 million, Access to Home at $1 million and the New York State Main Street program receiving $4.2 million.

Again this year, the Education, Labor, Housing and Family Assistance bill contained language allocating excess reserves of the Mortgage Insurance Fund (MIF) to several housing programs.  The Rural Preservation Program is allocated a total of $5,360,000 as proposed by the Governor with language added to carve out $150,000 for the Rural Housing Coalition.  NPC is funded at $12,830,000 with the same carve out for the NP Coalition.  The MIF also includes $45,181,000 to support several of the supportive services programs administered by OTDA and $65,568,000 for New York City Adult Shelters. 

The final budget agreement also includes an allocation of $600 million in federal COVID relief funds for a Homeownership Relief and Protection Program with up to $60 million of that amount set aside to support the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) for three years.  The balance of the funds in this program is to be administered by state and federally designated community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to assist distressed homeowners by providing mortgage payment assistance and similar support.  The Aid to Localities bill also provides a million dollars to cover services and expenses to over twenty not for profit, affordable housing organizations in the New York City area.

NYS Rural Advocate’s 2021 Housing Budget Testimony


Presented to a Joint hearing of

New York State Senate Finance Committee


New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee, February 2, 2021

Presented by

Blair W. Sebastian, for New York State Rural Advocates

Michael Borges, for Rural Housing Coalition of New York

Good afternoon Senator Krueger, Assemblywoman Weinstein, Senator Kavanagh, Senator Helming, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and distinguished members of the panel.  On behalf of the New York State Rural Advocates and the Rural Housing Coalition of New York, thank you for this opportunity share our thoughts and observations about the impact of the proposed 2022 executive housing budget on small towns and rural places around our State.

Meeting the affordable housing needs of rural communities presents a number of unique challenges.  These are small scale communities made up of widely scattered populations with limited access to traditional sources credit and few philanthropic resources.  While housing costs are often lower than comparable metropolitan regions, New York’s rural counties exhibit median incomes that are less than 80% of the median incomes in the more urbanized counties. The widespread occurrence of substandard housing in rural communities can be attributed to advanced age of the rural housing stock and to the limited resources available to provide ongoing capital investment.

It is important to recognize that rural communities are dominated by homeownership tenure and there is surprising evidence that many homeowners – particularly those on fixed incomes – are seriously cost burdened at rates similar to renters statewide.   Rural renters, although fewer in number than in urban places, also face serious challenges accessing safe, decent affordable housing opportunities.

By way of highlights, our top priority remains the Rural Preservation Program.  As we discuss below, Rural Preservation Companies are governed by boards of directors who are members of the communities served by the RPCs.  This means that the Company’s programs and activities are tailored to the specific needs and priorities of the community that they serve.  Many of the other programs we discuss below constitute the toolboxes from which RPCs draw the tools with which they attack local affordable housing problems.

As owner occupied housing stock is dominate in rural areas, AHC, the Affordable Housing Corporation provides a critical resources for the rehabilitation of existing one to four family homes and it supports the new construction and acquisition of existing properties that serve the homeownership community.  We are concerned that AHC funding has not kept pace with the State’s other major housing programs and we urge you to increase funding for this critical rural resource.

While rural housing tenure is dominated by homeowners, low income renters also face huge challenges.  Even though rents in rural places often seem modest compared to high cost markets, the condition of much of the rural rental housing stock is dismal.  We appreciate the work of private affordable housing developers in upstate New York but we note that scale of most rental development these days overwhelms our small communities.  Our not for profits have a wonderful track record of developing appropriately scaled rental housing but we currently lack the resources to accomplish that work.  We need a source of funding for small rental projects.

Finally, I want to point out that the executive did not include funding for the Rural Housing Coalition as part of the RPP budget.  The training and technical assistance component of RHC is a critical element of the RPPs success.  I would like to introduce Mike Borges, the new executive director of the Rural Housing Coalition to briefly talk about new initiatives he is working on.

Rural Preservation Companies (RPCs) are a key element of New York’s strategy to address the challenges faced by the State’s smaller communities.  RPCs are not for profit companies controlled by volunteer boards of directors with the majority of members required to live or work in the service area.  In order to successfully meet the affordable housing needs of the low income residents of New York’s small towns and rural communities, NYS Rural Advocates calls for the full funding of the Rural Preservation Program (RPP).

The Executive proposes to fund the Rural Preservation Program (RPP) with $5,360,000 from excess reserves of the Mortgage Insurance Fund in 2020.  The Executive does not include funding for the important technical assistance and training functions of the Rural Housing Coalition.

In order to fully fund currently active RPCs and restore preservation services to three of six unserved or underserved counties and to support the work of the New York State Rural Housing Coalition, Rural Advocates calls on the Legislature to provide the additional funding to provide RPP with a total appropriation of $6.2 million dollars.  NYS Rural Advocates recommends that language be added to the budget to provide $200,000 for the New York State Rural Housing Coalition from the RPP appropriation.

Affordable Housing Corporation:  The Executive proposes to flat fund AHC at $26 million from the Capital Projects budget.  NYS Rural Advocates is calling for an increase in AHC funding to $40 million this year.  This increase is necessary to offset the impacts of the anticipated increase in per unit funding limits and to provide a modest increase in program funding to satisfy a small portion of the overwhelming demand for this very effective program.

Homeownership is the dominate form of tenure in Rural New York.  With well over a half a million owner occupied housing units, the homeownership rate in rural service areas exceeds 70% compared to a statewide homeownership rate of just 54%,  (note that New York’s homeownership rate places us dead last among the 50 States!).  AHC provides funding that supports homeowners including down payment and closing cost assistance, new construction and rehabilitation of owner occupied one to four family homes and mobile home replacement programs.

Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP): Promoting and protecting homeownership is a priority for NYS Rural Advocates and therefore we are deeply concerned that mortgage delinquency rates have reached the highest levels ever due the pandemic’s impact on our State’s economy.  We note that delinquencies disproportionally impact the minority households that are already far behind in rates of homeownership.  The foreclosure crisis has certainly not ended but the funds supporting the HOPP program will be exhausted in July of this year.  We urge the Legislature to provide $20 million for a full service homeownership counseling program that includes foreclosure counseling, mitigation assistance and legal services.

Small Rental Projects:  Rental housing developers in New York have access to a broad menu of capital funding sources however, our network of community based not for profits have found that none of the State’s standing capital programs are particularly suitable for the small scale rental projects that are most appropriate in rural communities.

In recent years HCR has offered one time programs that effectively served the need for small projects. Most recently the Small Rental Development Initiative (SRDI) was organized by the HCR Office of Community Renewal (OCR).  In 2017 OCR used $22 million in recaptured federal HOME funds to underwrite 21 small projects ranging from 3 to 24 units and averaging about 9 units per award.  The awards resulted in a mix of rehabilitation and new construction projects located in 18 different counties.  The 2017 SRDI was a one-time effort with recaptured federal funds.   The 2017 round was seriously oversubscribed and the number of potential small projects under consideration by project sponsors continues to grow. 

In 2013 a similar scaled and equally successful program was funded as a set aside within the New York State Housing Trust Fund.  Based on that experience we have proposed that the HTF appropriation of $44.2 million be increased by $10 million to support a SRDI like program at OCR.  We recognize that there may be other sources of funds to underwrite a small project initiative including the transfer of under-utilized funds from the Small Building Participation Loan Program or the Urban and Rural Community Fund.  However, we believe it would be beneficial if a small project program were to become a permanent part of HCR’s regular offerings.

ACCESS to Home and HOPE/RESTORE: Access to Home supports the modification of individual housing units to meet the needs of households with a disabled member. HOPE/RESTORE provides funding for the rapid response to emergency home repair needs of elderly homeowners. There is unlimited need for both programs and there is substantial not for profit capacity to deliver these programs.

The 2022 Executive budget funds Access to Home at $1 million from the Capital Projects Fund. New York State Rural Advocates recommends a $2 million addition to Access to Home for a total of $3 million in program funding. HOPE/RESTORE is proposed at $1.4 million from Capital Project Fund.  Rural Advocates recommends a $1million addition for a current program appropriation of $2.4 million. 

Homeless Housing and Assistance Program: HHAP supports a range of homeless housing developments by providing capital funds for emergency, transitional and permanent housing for homeless households. HHAP has a history of flexibility with respect to scale and design that allows the program to be a highly effective tool in a wide range of situations including in the smallest rural communities.

The 2022 executive budget proposed to fund HHAP at $128 million with a $5 million set aside for HIV/AIDs housing from the capital projects fund.    We recognize that success of any homeless housing project depends on the quality of service that accompanies the housing.  Rural Advocates support the allocation sufficient funding to fully underwrite the support services programs associated with HHAP.

Rural Rental Assistance: Rural Advocates support the Rural Rental Assistance Program (RRAP) to provide “Section 8 like” rent subsidies to some 5000 very low-income disabled, senior and female headed households living in properties with Section 515 Rural Rental Housing loans.  RRAP has successfully leveraged federal Section 521 rental assistance in amounts similar to those provided by New York State.  The Executive proposes to fund RRAP at $20,630,000.  Rural Advocates support this appropriation.

 Many residents of Rural Rental Housing have suffered loss of income due to the COVID Pandemic. We encourage NYS HCR and the state legislature allocate federal COVID rental assistance funds to augment both state and federal Rural Rental Assistance as necessary to meet the increased need.

Manufactured and Mobile Homes:  There are nearly 200,000 mobile homes in New York State.  Many older mobile homes in rural areas are found to be seriously deteriorated or dilapidated.  Mobile Homes located on owned lands benefit from the Mobile and Manufactured Home Replacement Program (MMHRP). For the past several years MMHRP has been funded from the first Five Year Capital Plan.  Those funds are now exhausted and no new funding is proposed in the executive budget.  Advocates recommend the addition of $3 million in current appropriations to support this important program

The 2022 Executive Budget provides $5 million to support the Manufactured Home Advantage Program which provides loans for infrastructure and other park improvements; for the acquisition of parks by nonprofits and to support resident ownership of communities through a co-op model.  New York State Rural Advocates supports this appropriation.

NY Main Street Program (NYMS): New York’s modest Main Street program has proven to be an effective tool for revitalizing both commercial and residential elements of our downtown areas. Rural Advocates believes that it is time to expand the program and include technical assistance and capacity building in addition to program funding.  The Executive proposes to fund NYMS with $4.2 million from the Capital Projects Fund.  We note that over the past several years the base appropriation for NYMS has been enhanced with funds from the JP Morgan Chase settlement resulting in annual funding of over $6 million.  The JPMC funds are now exhausted leaving the Main Street Program with an effective funding reduction of two million dollars for the 2022 program year.

Rural Advocates recommend an additional appropriation of $2.3 million resulting in a total of $6.5 million in current appropriations to support the NYMS program.