The governor’s misguided affordable-housing plan


It appears that Gov. Kathy Hochul has made a conscious decision to declare political war on Long Island.
In her proposed statewide mandate to increase the number of affordable homes by 800,000 units over the next 10 years, Hochul seeks to override local zoning control that is directed, in large measure, by the people who live there. For Long Island, home rule defines our region just as much as Jones Beach and rush hour traffic on the LIE. Make no mistake: Hochul’s housing plan is taking aim at the Island by imposing a 3 percent increase in affordable housing one way or another.
In an effort to couch it in humanitarian terms, she told the State Legislature, “Housing is a human right.” That’s bold rhetoric, but in truth, there is nothing in the federal or state Constitutions stating that housing is a basic right guaranteed by government. On the other hand, our state Constitution says, “Effective local self-government” is one of the “purposes of the people of the state.” Thus, the governor’s intent to allow the state to override local zoning ordinances is contrary to a basic tenet of our governing document.
If citizens in a democracy wish to support initiatives that provide subsidized housing, then government can invest in efforts such as the New York City Housing Authority. With broken elevators, poorly maintained boilers, lurking crime and other assorted issues, however, you have to admit that NYCHA has proven that government-subsidized housing isn’t exactly a panacea. That may help explain why over 30 percent of those renting from NYCHA didn’t pay their rent last year.
Hochul had a near-death political experience last fall, when Long Island did not give her a majority at the polls. There are a number of reasons for the Island’s antipathy toward her, but one was her earlier call to allow illegal two-family homes to become legal. Yet after retreating from blistering bipartisan opposition to that proposal, she has come back with yet another draconian housing “solution,” one driven more by ideology than market forces. Perhaps her call to dismantle local zoning is her punishment for a region where voters found her the lesser candidate.

Nevertheless, in the interest of building a coalition, Hochul has sent RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, to meet with Long Islanders in the public and private sectors. In 2017, Visnauskas was appointed president and CEO of the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the State of New York Mortgage Agency and the State Affordable Housing Corporation. She previously served as Homes and Community Renewal’s executive deputy commissioner for Housing Development, the Mortgage Insurance Fund, the Office of Community Renewal and the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services.
All that is fine, Commissioner, but welcome to Long Island.
Just in case you don’t believe our region is specifically targeted in the governor’s public agenda, consider the following. Hochul acknowledges that the majority of communities around the state are already hitting or close to achieving her arbitrary affordable-housing targets — except Long Island. For Nassau and Suffolk, she has set a goal of 38,218 new affordable housing units between 2023 and 2025.
This is not to say Long Island doesn’t have a housing problem. It does. Far too many municipalities here are shutting down applications for next-generation housing, creating an unforced exodus of young people who will be needed to power the economy, pay the taxes and build the future. But Hochul’s proposed remedy is akin to being held hostage by an Albany now under progressive domination.
If it is passed, it is a certainty that there will be lawsuits, protests and, most important, a response at the voting booths that will jeopardize every elected official who supports the plan. And the political aftershocks will not stop with state and local officials. Much as the issue of crime drove Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Republicans last November, Hochul’s assault on the integrity of local zoning may move Long Island voters to overwhelmingly support the Republican who runs against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
While Gillibrand seems to need a GPS to even find Long Island, she will be within reach of voters who intend to express their seething anger over a Democratic-Progressive agenda that destroys the integrity of suburban home rule. She will be another politician who ruefully discovers that you “don’t mess with the Island.”

Ronald J. Rosenberg has been an attorney for 42 years, concentrating in commercial litigation and transactions, and real estate, municipal, zoning and land use law. He founded the Garden City law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney in 1999.