New York State

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: There’s light at the end of the budget tunnel

He offered a few new potential housing nuggets while expressing optimism that the final budget will come soon.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said a deal on housing is getting closer.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said a deal on housing is getting closer. Rebecca C. Lewis

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated that an end may be in sight on the state budget – and offered a few new details Tuesday afternoon on what tenant protections might look like in the final deal.

Heastie told reporters that “pencils weren’t fully down” when Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the “parameters of a conceptual agreement” on Monday, but he expressed optimism that lawmakers may be able to finish passing budget bills before the end of the week. “I can see action happening by Thursday,” Heastie said.

Several specifics still needed to be locked down and run by members though, according to Heastie. “Some of the stuff is very language complicated,” the speaker said. One of those issues remains housing, which the governor offered few details on when announcing the conceptual agreement. “I wouldn’t say every issue on housing is closed at this point, but it’s getting closer,” Heastie told reporters, citing tenant protections specifically to ensure that the “intent” of the provisions gets carried out.

Heastie didn’t go into specifics of what remained unsettled, but he offered a few glimpses into the discussions. He confirmed that some sort of high-rent exemption will be included in the “good cause” eviction compromise. When asked about displeasure from tenant advocates on the details of the housing deal, Heastie pointed out that only about 90,000 out of 9.2 million market-rate units rent for more than $5,000 a month. “North of 90% of tenants in the city of New York will have tenant protections,” Heastie said of the compromise on the table. City & State reported on Friday that the provision would exempt apartments rented for more than 200% the federally determined fair market rent. But Heastie explicitly said on Tuesday that the exemption will not be that exact number. According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, some “good cause” supporters have been pushing in recent days to increase the high-rent exemption to a number higher than 200% of the fair market rent.

Heastie also said that municipalities outside of New York City would “have the ability to make changes to portfolio size.” According to the provisions that leaked last week, landlords that own 10 units or fewer would not be subject to the “good cause” eviction tenant protections. Tenant advocates criticized the portfolio size measure as one that would lead to the exclusion of many renters in cities where the market is made up of single-family or small multifamily homes. The source with knowledge of the negotiations said there was also a push to give municipalities the power to tweak the protections to better fit the specific market of the city or town.

City & State reported on Friday that the housing deal included a number of concessions on “good cause” eviction protections, including a high-rent exemption, an opt-in option for municipalities and an exemption for landlords with a small enough portfolio. Heastie seemed to indicate that the opt-in option for towns is still part of the deal. When asked about why the measure was included, he said it was about reaching a compromise within a diverse conference.

On Monday, housing advocates also shared that the proposal would give landlords additional reasons to evict tenants, such as taking the unit off the market or plans to renovate an apartment.

Still, Heastie would not say the deal was set in stone. “Nothing is finalized until it’s finalized,” Heastie said of the housing package.