White Plains, NY – As lawmakers continue to search for solutions to New York State’s housing crisis, two state legislators - Assemblymembers Chris Burdick and Dana Levenberg - are engaging with local leaders as they draft bills for the 2024 legislative session. As part of their efforts, Burdick and Levenberg, both of whom sit on the Assembly Housing committee, hosted a housing summit on Tuesday, October 31. Approximately 50 local leaders representing municipalities, developers, and housing-oriented not-for-profits were in attendance for the event. After welcoming remarks from Burdick and Levenberg, Kate Slevin of the Regional Planning Association delivered a presentation which provided data on the housing crisis in New York State, as well as insights from other states that are tackling the housing issue effectively. Small group discussions followed, facilitated by personnel from the Pace Land Use Law Center and Housing Action Council.
“The conversation among developers, housing advocates, planners and elected officials must occur on a statewide basis to develop a coherent, broadly-based policy that enjoys consensus. We heard clearly that it will not occur without compromise from all sides and a significant NYS financial commitment. As a member of the Assembly Housing Committee, I will press for just that,” said Assemblymember Burdick.
“It is absolutely imperative that we get something accomplished on housing next year, and we must start by listening to local leaders,” said Assemblywoman Levenberg, who also serves on the Local Governments committee in the Assembly. “We need their input to ensure any legislation put forth is feasible and can pass. Hopefully we can also learn from successes and best practices in other states so we do not have to reinvent the wheel. The status quo is not sustainable for our economy, our environment or our society, just from a human perspective. My goal is to continue to work with all local stakeholders to draft legislation that solves problems and limits unintended consequences.”
The bulk of the event was devoted to small group discussions. Participants shared their views on the housing crisis, obstacles to progress, and potential solutions. Each small group was assembled to bring diverse perspectives, containing municipal officials, developers, and not-for-profit leaders representing different areas of the region. Facilitators also ensured that each participant received ample time to speak and share their views.
Levenberg and Burdick circulated to all the tables during the discussions. Each group also reported out towards the end of the session; there were many universal challenges cited, as well as similarities among suggested solutions. The legislators now have some tangible material to work with as they move forward to draft effective housing legislation.
“Events like these are imperative as we try to solve the housing crisis,” said Tiffany Zezula, Deputy Director of the Pace Land Use Law Center who also works with the Housing Action Council. “We are typically having reactionary conversations, instead of being proactive. Sitting down together to think critically and creatively is how we improve our communities. Our hope is for leaders and residents to start prioritizing housing as a driver of success. We need a shift in the narrative on housing. With more conversations at the local level and more people at the table with various interests, I believe that we can begin to work together to create the sustainable, equitable and economically thriving places that we want to live in.”
Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery said, “This forum was such a great opportunity to talk with well-informed people representing a variety of perspectives on our current housing challenges. I appreciate Assemblymembers Dana Levenberg and Chris Burdick for bringing us together to seek our input and enable us to learn from each other and put our local circumstances into a broader context. I also want to applaud the Pace Land Use Law Center for their efforts facilitating this event. They have been and continue to be a tremendous resource for local governments in the region.”
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said, “The present housing shortage in our region is bad for everybody – raising costs, constraining job opportunities and reducing competitiveness. As the mayor of a community that is building housing, I appreciated the opportunity to express and further expand on my thoughts regarding the challenges municipal leaders are facing locally. I am looking forward to continued dialogue with our colleagues at the state level as they move forward with legislation that will have a meaningful impact on this pressing issue.”
Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie said, “Housing is a top priority for us in Peekskill, and it was great to hear from other communities that are also opening themselves up to new ideas as we try to tackle this regional challenge. Thank you to State Assemblymembers Dana Levenberg and Chris Burdick for bringing local representatives together to listen to us and learn how they can help us overcome the obstacles we face as we work to ensure that people from all walks of life can make a home in our community.”
Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich said, “The collaborative approach of Assemblymembers Burdick and Levenberg is the model New York State should be following. Local municipal leaders, housing advocates and businesses all must be part of identifying the needs and overcoming the challenges to creating more housing. By working together, we can find meaningful solutions.”
Bedford Town Supervisor Ellen Calves said, “I deeply appreciate NYS Assemblymembers Chris Burdick and Dana Levenberg for hosting a housing summit that included local officials in advance of the 2024 legislative session. Zoning is a highly localized issue, making it imperative that localities lead the way, but I appreciate that Regional and State-wide cooperation and partnership are also essential. It was extremely beneficial to have so many stakeholders at the summit working together to explore ideas. Thank you for this collaborative opportunity and for proactively working to find a path forward to ensure housing solutions for our communities.”
Lewisboro Town Supervisor Tony Gonçalves said, "Housing is an important item that should not be overlooked, especially in our Northern Westchester Municipalities. I was fortunate to have been invited to the Housing Summit and it was a worthwhile half day session with my peers and various experts in housing. There is a need for housing, but that need cannot be fulfilled without understanding the hurdles and how to navigate them. For instance, how we would provide the needed infrastructure for wastewater management, especially in watershed areas. Thanks to Assemblymembers Dana Levenberg and Chris Burdick for spearheading this summit. I walked away with good information that will help me with developing a plan to fulfill the housing needs of Lewisboro.”
Pound Ridge Town Supervisor Kevin Hansan said, "I was pleased to attend the summit because it’s clear all municipalities want some say in the decision-making process on affordable housing within our communities. I hope the NYS legislature continues to engage with local municipalities to develop affordable housing plans rather than trying a one size fits all approach."
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas said, “In North Salem, we have been making great strides in not only creating more housing but also creating a better sense of community. It was great to be at an event in which there was a good sharing of ideas and concerns across different groups. I’m looking forward to further conversations.”
North Castle Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro said, “The roundtable was excellent and [Deputy Town Supervisor] Barbara DiGiacinto and myself thank Assemblyman Chris Burdick and Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg for leading this. These discussions are exactly the types of discussions that need to happen, bringing all stakeholders together to learn from each other and help solve the housing need challenge together and not in silos. Kudos to Chris and Dana.”
Ossining Town Supervisor Elizabeth Feldman said, "It was great that Assemblymembers Dana Levenberg and Chris Burdick brought local officials, developers, and nonprofit housing organizations together to collaborate, identifying and resolving the infrastructure and financial impediments to providing the affordable housing that we all agree is needed."
Village of Croton-on-Hudson Trustee Len Simon said, “In Croton-on-Hudson we are sharply focused on new housing for young people, empty nesters, and the vital workforce we rely on daily. But we know we can’t get there alone. That’s why the Housing Summit convened by Assemblymembers Chris Burdick and Dana Levenberg was such an important gathering at just the right time. The candid exchange of experiences and ideas about the future of housing in NY, and its affordability, will help craft the right roles for state and local government and the private sector to create the future housing we need. I’m grateful to Chris and Dana for their leadership and the progress we achieved together at the Housing Summit.”
Philipstown Town Board Member Judy Farrell said, “The housing summit convened by Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg and Assemblymember Chris Burdick was a wonderful opportunity to come together with other municipalities and share best practices for engaging the public in creating housing solutions that meet community needs. I hope that our Assembly leaders will build on the productive discussions this summit generated.”
Ossining Village Manager Karen D’Attore said, “There is no one size fits all answer to our region’s housing crisis. Kudos to Assemblymembers Levenberg and Burdick for convening an opportunity for municipal stakeholders to discuss their specific, and often differing, housing challenges and opportunities. This type of dialogue helps to create an array of solutions better designed to address this complex and nuanced issue more effectively and equitably.”
Village of Croton-on-Hudson Planning Board Member Steven Krisky said, “I found the program hugely informative and the networking component with municipal leaders and land-use planners was very engaging. Assemblymembers Levenberg & Burdick were visionary to commit to a more informed process of community input to inform the housing proposals at the state level. As a member of a local planning board, this was very helpful to gain perspective on our housing initiatives.”
Cynthia Knox, Chief Executive Officer of Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP), said, “Every community in New York State is impacted by the housing crisis. Through actions like the recent Housing Summit, Assemblymembers Levenberg and Burdick are bringing together municipal, development, land use, business, community members, and community advocates to develop strategies to address the crisis with practical solutions that can lead to a more sustainable, stable future for all our communities.”
Jackie Shaw, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council for Action (IFCA) Housing Network said, “It was illuminating to see the many differences between and among the municipalities but what I walked away with is how much we have in common. I am more confident than ever that if we work together we can make progress on overcoming the housing crisis in New York.”