AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
Following a fierce battle over a similar policy last year, suburban New Yorkers are once again up in arms after Governor Kathy Hochul announced a sweeping plan to usurp local control over zoning rules and radically rewrite housing policy during her State of the State Address last month. If Hochul’s proposals are enacted, New York will take the first steps toward following other liberal states in eliminating single-family zoning.
The news places added pressure on Republicans to develop a policy plan to save single-family neighborhoods while also finding a solution for skyrocketing housing costs.
Hochul’s plan, officially titled the “New York Housing Compact,” is comprised of several proposed laws that zero in on local zoning rules. In short, the Compact sets new housing production requirements for every city, town, and village in the state. Critically, however, if municipalities fail to meet those metrics – which many certainly will – the Compact authorizes the state government to overrule local authorities and authorize new housing projects instead.
A series of incentives and other new regulations outlined in the plan virtually guarantee that all of this new housing construction, whether it be approved by local governments or bureaucrats in Albany, will be high-rise apartments or multi-family units, rather than the single-family homes that have been a staple of the American Dream for generations.
For instance, so-called “affordable housing” – or subsidized, low-rent properties – will count double toward a locality’s housing goal, incentivizing the construction of multi-family dwellings rather than single-family homes. Hochul’s proposal also gives the state government the power to unilaterally suspend local zoning and planning authority in order to authorize the construction of apartment buildings and multi-family units anywhere, including in the middle of single-family neighborhoods.
Suburban leaders from both parties are already pushing back hard on the plan, much as they did one year ago when Hochul proposed a scheme to conduct an end-run around local zoning laws and allow single-family homes to be turned into multi-family residences. Amid bipartisan backlash, Hochul reversed course, but this latest effort appears to have more momentum in Albany, and was included as part of the state budget released on February 1. (It’s worth noting that Hochul herself owns a pair of condos in Buffalo and a house in Virginia, and the New York Governor’s Mansion sits on a 10-acre lot in downtown Albany.)
The New York Housing Compact is part of a broader push by Democrats throughout the country to eliminate single-family zoning in suburban areas. The left has repeatedly insisted that traditional neighborhoods are “racist,” despite evidence that suburbs are now the most racially diverse areas in America. Liberals have also targeted single-family zoning over supposed environmental concerns, suggesting that single-family homes are not “sustainable” enough for the left’s green agenda.
While Democrats have been agitating against single-family zoning for years – including with the Obama administration’s infamous Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule – their efforts have accelerated since Biden’s election in 2020, particularly in blue states. Far-left progressives in localities such as Portland and Minneapolis have abolished single-family zoning entirely. California effectively ended single-family zoning statewide in 2021. Even in states such as Virginia, which has a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House of Delegates, single-family neighborhoods are under assault.
The Biden administration has joined in the crusade to eliminate single-family zoning as well, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development calling for “zoning reform” and repeatedly proposing budget measures to encourage states to reduce the number of new single-family homes being built.
For Democrats, the political incentives to pack people into high-density, government-subsidized housing developments are clear: such a situation forces those living in “affordable housing” to depend on ever-expanding government programs Democrat politicians have long favored. Home ownership, meanwhile, makes people more independent and, as one study from Stanford University showed, more likely to vote in accordance with whatever will best protect their investment – in other words, for conservative policies.
In New York, the few Republican strongholds left are in areas with primarily single-family homes. If Democrats can use taxpayer dollars to build high-density housing units, particularly around public transit centers, as Hochul’s plan outlines, residents currently living in urban cores can more easily disperse outward – taking their far-left voting habits with them.
While Republicans are right to point out the shameless political opportunism underpinning Democrats’ housing policies, they should nonetheless recognize that housing unaffordability is a very real concern for millions of Americans, particularly in the younger generations. According to a YouGov poll conducted last year, 74% of American adults view homeownership as a hallmark of the American Dream, including 65% of millennials. But of the 45% who did not own a home, nearly two-thirds said they wanted to but could not afford it.
Digging into the numbers, it’s clear why. Between 2000 and 2021, the last year for which data is available, median household income in the United States increased from $66,000 to $70,000, or about 6%. In that same time period, the median sales price for a house increased from $172,900 to $423,600, or about 245%. Median sales prices shot up a further 10% in 2022.
While the causes for this drastic increase are many and complex, the fact remains that Democrats have identified a real problem, even if their solution – eliminating single-family zoning entirely and subsidizing high-density housing projects – does little to alleviate it and merely leaves Americans locked in a cycle of renting and reliance on government subsidies.
Republicans have an opportunity to step in and actually deliver the solutions that Americans want on single-family zoning and housing unaffordability. Former President Donald Trump raised the alarm about Democrats’ radical plan to abolish the suburbs in 2020, and other Republican leaders are beginning to follow his lead in highlighting the Democrat threat to single-family neighborhoods. During the Virginia gubernatorial election in 2021, a conservative group released a two-minute TV attack ad against Democrat nominee Terry McAuliffe highlighting his past support for ending single-family zoning, further showcasing how the issue can be a winning one for Republicans.
The next step is developing a plan to make homeownership more attainable for more people. If Republicans can succeed at this, they will likely find entire generations of voters eager to follow their lead and make their American Dream of owning a home a reality once again.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.
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And yet another left wing nut job. Liberalism is a mental disorder.
I can guaran-dam-tee you that NONE of these restrictions and requirements will take effect in the toney neighborhoods and towns where the NY Democrat elites live. And I would love to know how Herr Hochul is gonna be subdividing the governor’s mansion, and how many families she’s going to allow to live there with her. But I think I know the answer.
The Socialist BIG Government takeover in play..,
We the People need to gather together and fight unauthorized abuse of power.
There must be accountability for those who PROMISE under OATH to protect our freedoms from Big Government restrictions/regulations.
There is stupid and then there is stupidity. This movement will continue to be a gift to the Republican Party
Tell Hochul to give up her mansion and all the rest of the Democrats in favor of this type of zoning. They are trying to control everybody and everything. If this continues you will definitely see a civil war in this country if far left continues to take our freedoms away.
Tine to send her to hell right now, where she will end up anyway.
One of the basic “building blocks” of America was private ownership of real estate. The ability to own your own house and live it it as you like was the dream of many of the founders of America. Main reason many people left Europe to get to America.
Now the “State” wants to control the houses (or tenements) to have better control of the constituents (state residents). Read the comment by PaulE, right on target.
New York (and other blue states) are heading towards George Orwell’s book, “1984”. Easier for Big Brother to watch you if we all live in Big Brother’s tenements.
Please Name one thing the Democrats policies that worked? Oh, they might work at first till they f— it up like they always do
WELFARE. The reason we are where we are today.
You got that right! All Welfare creates is lazy people always looking for a handout and never putting anything back into the system.
Cuomo targeted the elderly while Hokul targets everyone. You get what you vote for NY!
My guess is 99.99% of the people in this discussion didn’t vote for this moron governor. Take NYC out of the equation and New York state would be bright red. Look at any election map and at first glance it looks like the Republicans / Conservatives cleaned house. The ones voting her in are either completely out of touch with the realities of what is happening to this state or lazy and looking for handouts that they know they will get.
Since handout / bribes are creating Lazy people who selfishly vote for freebees, shouldn’t that be illegal?
Welfare should be designed for those truly willing to work, but can not.
My 37 year old daughter passed away from cancer this year. And yet, as sick as she was she put in an average of 20-40 hours a week.
She wanted to be a part of her community and do her share.
These young Adults spend more time gaming the system.
Get rid of the illegals in this country and there will not be a housing shortage.
In Texas, those from south of the border are the main ones doing the construction work. They are hard and motivated workers. Without them, home construction would slow to a crawl. Just wish they would enter legally.
Slaves worked pretty hard too. Bet its easy to get a pre-teen hooker too. Remember to tip!
While tries to abolish suburbs she certainly is not going to want any of “them” living in her neighborhood.
THIS IS WHT YOU DON’T “VOTE STUPID”!!
Building codes are one of the reasons for skyrocketing housing costs. Building codes often result in larger houses costing less per square foot than smaller houses.
I believe Rush Limbaugh [& others] warned America about this leftist policy & its advance if Biden took office; the dem-Marxists are hell bent on destroying the USA on all fronts. I believe we are in danger & need to take a stand against them.
Basic Communism. Democrats always destroy all that is good and decent.
The very first project needs to go on the property adjacent to hers in orchard park. Then next to the Biden beach house, then on to Martha’s Vineyard next to the obama’s. Then on to chuck shumers place etc. then on to Beverly Hills for them to enjoy. After that the suburbs won’t have to worry because the jerks in those places won’t let it go forward. So it should be “You First”!! And then we’ll think about it.
This is true. A leader leads from the front and by example.
She is trying to recreate the vote farms of the past.
The I suggest that Dingy Governor move into a Housing Project first. Let her set the example. If not…Stifle you Marxist-bot.
Go to the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence for a definition and remedy. They want to make everything a ghetto in the true sense of the word as the Germans did in WWII Poland and for the same reason, total control. That is what the national Socialist Democrats want. Equity is their word for communism. I like the old “All in The Family” episode where Mike and Gloria were going to visit friends in a commune. Archie makes a comment about communists. Mike brilliantly says just because they live in a commune doesn’t mean they are communists to which Archie replies, Commune-IST. Unfortunately, Rob Reiner is still the same “Meathead”.
To Joco. Well said. Kyle L.