State budget: Housing, preschool and more on City Council’s wishlist for funding from Albany as April 1 deadline looms

City Council members speak at New York state budget hearing
City Council Finance Chair Justin Brannan (left) and Speaker Adrienne Adams, testifying before state lawmakers about the city’s financial needs in February 2024. The City Council released its priorities for the state’s Fiscal Year 2025 state budget on Monday, March 26, 2024.
Credit John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

The City Council on Monday outlined its wishlist for the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2025 state budget with the clock rapidly ticking toward the April 1 deadline when Albany must pass a spending plan.

Among city lawmakers’ top priorities for Albany are a suite of housing reforms; more funding to cover an increased amount for state housing vouchers; additional dollars for the Big Apple’s early childhood education programs; and support for additional funds to address the city’s ongoing migrant crisis.

City Council Speaker Adreinne Adams, in a statement, said the city is an “economic engine” for the state and needs support from Albany to make sure it remains “affordable and healthy” for its residents.

“The Council’s state budget priorities match what our city needs to meet this critical moment and solve challenges,” the Speaker said. “With so much at stake, we all must work together to make the crucial investments New Yorkers deserve.”

When it comes to housing, the City Council signaled support for proposals aimed at boosting housing construction that are backed by both Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

Those include lifting the 12 floor-to-area ratio (FAR) cap, which restricts building density in some parts of the city; making it easier to convert office buildings into apartments, coupled with financial incentives for including affordable units in those projects; and replacing the 421-a tax abatement program with a similar incentive for affordable housing construction.

The council also wants close to $199 million from Albany to fund a planned expansion of the state FHEPS housing voucher program for homeless and low income New Yorkers over the next five years, which currently is unfunded.

In addition to reforms aimed at making it easier to build housing, the council pushed state lawmakers to pass some form of tenant protections.

“Doubling down on investments and incentives to spur a new wave of truly affordable housing construction, alongside tenant protections, will help light the path out of our grim housing crisis,” said Council Finance Chair Justin Brannan, in a statement.

Albany lawmakers are also pushing for some form of tenant protections. 

The state Senate has signaled support for the controversial “Good Cause Eviction” measure that would cap rent increases and make it harder for landlords to evict tenants. But the Assembly did not include any mention of Good Cause in its budget plan.

Negotiations around the 421-a replacement have also reportedly hit a snag, with two prominent building trades unions being displeased with the wage-floor for unionized labor that the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY( proposed for the program holding up a deal.

On the issue of education, council leadership wants the state to pony up more funding for the city’s 3-K program due expiring federal COVID-19 stimulus aid that was used to sustain the program thus far. 

Additionally, the council is urging Hochul to rethink her proposal to change the state’s school aid funding formula, known as Foundation Aid.

“Greater funding for our schools and early childhood education are required to help our working- and middle-class families remain and succeed in New York, and to support our students’ recovery from historic learning losses,” the speaker said.

State lawmakers also rejected Hochul’s proposed school funding changes in their own budget plans.

The council is in alignment with Hochul and state lawmakers over her proposal to direct $2.4 billion in additional migrant crisis aid to the five boroughs. The mayor has argued the $2.4 billion is not enough to cover the city’s expenses and has requested the state cover half of the roughly $10 billion price tag of caring for tens of thousands of newcomers.