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A New York Housing Deal Could Be Close. What’s Holding It Up?

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Everyone — landlords, tenants, builders and their various allies — seems to agree that a deal is desperately needed to address the worsening housing crisis in New York State.

What is holding it up?

There are three main factions fighting over a few key priorities, including tough new restrictions on evictions and significant tax breaks for developers. The groups are still at odds but appear to be moving closer as the urgency to pass something rises, ahead of a spring break in April.

“We feel we’re in the homestretch,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an interview on Thursday.

But Ms. Hochul, who tried and failed to push a housing plan last year, said that negotiations remained delicate, like a game of Jenga: “If we pull out one block, it may keep the building or it may collapse the building.”

“Few will walk away and say they’re thrilled,” she added. “My objective is to say we’re getting housing built.”

The left wing of the Democratic Party, which has influence in the State Senate, is aggressively pushing a “good cause eviction” bill that would limits landlords’ abilities to remove renters from their properties and is effectively a deterrent to sharp rent increases.

The measure would also ensure that any tenants of a property subject to the law are offered automatic renewal leases. Which properties would those be? That’s still up for debate.

New York City’s landlord lobby — which has been backed by Ms. Hochul in some instances — opposes good cause. But it also wants to make a deal on new tax breaks so that landlords can build rental housing and still make a profit.

Many landlords say that because of high taxes, rising insurance rates and other expenses, constructing new buildings often doesn’t make financial sense.

Their lobby is also pushing to allow landlords to increase rents in some rent-stabilized apartments, to allow for upgrades between tenants. Landlords say they are keeping many units vacant because the low rents don’t allow them to cover the cost of repairs.

Labor unions who represent construction workers and other trades are also in the mix, fighting for better wages tied to any new tax break. And advocates for low-income renters want to ensure that any tax break will come with a mandate for developers to build affordable housing.

The affordability crisis has been especially acute in the city, and both Ms. Hochul and the administration of Mayor Eric Adams are trying to push a package through that includes some or all of those elements.

Taken together, the measures could address many of the major components of the housing crisis.

A new tax break would help spur the construction of new apartments to plug the state’s housing shortage, which is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of homes. Development has slowed considerably since the last tax break, known as 421a, expired in 2022.

And the good cause eviction measure could provide a feeling of stability for low-income renters, particularly as the rate of evictions is rising again and the availability of new apartments is effectively zero. The bill would restrict a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant for not paying rent if that rent has been increased beyond a certain threshold.

A package could also include other consequential measures. One would remove density limits on new housing in Manhattan. Another would provide developers with incentives to convert vacant offices to apartments.

Another priority for upstate lawmakers would help renters in cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester avoid eviction if they are struggling to pay rent. Their proposal would expand an existing program, known colloquially as the “one shot deal,” to allow renters to more easily access a government subsidy that is widely used downstate to cover back rent.

It did not always seem likely that state leaders would act. They failed to find a compromise last year and many Democrats worried that it would be politically unwise to make big moves ahead of this year’s elections.

Earlier in the week, Carl E. Heastie, the speaker of the Assembly, described the delicate deal-making process, and the way that a lack of agreement in one area could stall talks more broadly.

“It’s more complicated than to say, ‘That’s the one thing that’s holding up,’” Mr. Heastie said. While landlords and tenants are often seen as the main adversaries, lawmakers including Mr. Heastie have said a fight between landlords and workers over wages has also been a big sticking point.

He added: “It’s like a circle of dominoes, they all kind of affect each other.”

Jim Whelan, the president of the city’s landlord lobby, the Real Estate Board of New York, said Thursday that the group was “focused on advancing policies that create much more rental housing and help maintain the city’s housing stock.”

Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, which lobbies on behalf of tenants, said she was “really concerned with what REBNY is pushing on rent-stabilization rollbacks in exchange for good cause.”

“It’s a total no go for many in the Legislature and reads as trying to blow the whole deal up,” she said.

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