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Gov. Kathy Hochul's point person on New York's housing crisis speaks exclusively to CBS2

Exclusive: New York's point person on Gov. Kathy Hochul's housing plan speaks out
Exclusive: New York's point person on Gov. Kathy Hochul's housing plan speaks out 02:47

NEW YORK -- Gov. Kathy Hochul and members of the Legislature are on another collision course over a controversial plan to build hundreds of thousands of units of housing.

The point person for the governor says New York's housing crisis is a simple case of math.

"In the last 10 years, we've built abut 400,000 units of housing and we've created 1.2 million jobs in the state. When you look at northern New Jersey, they've built almost 200,000 more housing units than jobs. When you look at Connecticut, they've created about 50,000 more housing units than jobs," Ruthann Visnauskas, commissioner of the New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal, said during an exclusive interview with CBS2 on Monday.

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Visnauskas says the equation is simple. No homes for the people state businesses want to employ equals people moving out of New York to neighboring states where housing is plentiful and affordable.

However, members of the Legislature insist Gov. Hochul's plan to build 800,000 units of housing in the next decade is a case of fuzzy math.

There has been intense push-back in the Long Island and Westchester suburbs because Hochul wants to require cities, towns and villages to increase their housing stock by 3% over three years or lose their ability to reject development proposals.

But the commissioner is pushing back, saying their fears of losing local control are unfounded.

"We really are providing a lot of control to localities to say you can zone how you want. You can zone where you want. We really are saying we want you to grow, but you can choose how to do that and so the local control piece only comes into play for localities that refuse to grow," Visnauskas said.

The reality, she says, is that for most areas the need to build isn't a heavy lift.

"For over 80% of the municipalities in the state, over three years this would be less than 50 units, so we're talking about 15 housing units a year," Visnauskas said.

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For example, Bellerose, Long Island has 1,250 people with just over 400 homes. The target would be 12 new homes over three years. Great Neck Estates, with just over 1,000 homes, would have a target of 30 homes. Patchogue, currently with 9,200 homes, would have a target of 175 units.

"If you want to build houses, if you want to build townhouses, if you want to build multi-family, you can choose how to do that," Visnauskas said.

So far, the Legislature has turned thumb's down. It doesn't want localities to be required to build. Instead, it wants to offer a carrot -- not a stick -- proposing a $500 million fund to offer incentives to those that meet the target.

"I certainly don't think that carrot-only approach is going to get New Yorkers in New York state what it needs on housing," Visnauskas said.

Whether the governor gets her way remains to be seen, but there's not much time. The budget deadline is at the end of the month.

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