New York’s Plan to Convert Bad Hotels into Affordable Housing

Photo: Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

July 5, 2022 9:50 AM

Over the last year, our allies in the New York State government have passed a series of new laws aimed at addressing two major problems afflicting our communities: the desperate need for affordable housing and out-of-control hotel development.

The Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (“HONDA”), which passed in the spring of 2021, created a $100 million program that encourages developers to repurpose failing hotels into permanent housing for the homeless and low-income families.

The program received an additional $100 million in funding in 2022 thanks to the efforts of Governor Kathy Hochul and the State’s legislative leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins (NY State Senate Majority Leader) and Carl Heastie (Speaker of the NY State Assembly).

On June 7th of this year, Governor Hochul signed another piece of legislation that cuts through red tape for nonprofit developers, a major step toward speeding up hotel conversions.

The legislation has had the full support of our Union as it protects good union jobs, addresses the problems caused by decades of overdevelopment, and helps tackle the City’s housing crisis.

Union Hotels are Protected

“Unlocking hotel conversions is not going after union hotels,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams explained at a press conference in support of the legislation this May. “It is going after those hotels that are creating a blight and that have created conditions in our communities that are used for so many illegal means and those that are closed.”

Our Union worked to make sure that “HONDA” as well as the latest regulations signed by Governor Hochul both require our Union’s approval for any projects involving the conversion of HTC represented hotels, ensuring we can protect our members’ jobs.

Why NYC Needs Fewer Hotels

“Over the last twenty years, New York City has been overbuilt with the wrong kind of hotels,” explains HTC President Rich Maroko. “The kind of hotels that pay poverty wages and exploit workers, the kind of hotels that cause trouble in their neighborhoods, and the kind of hotels that tarnish the image of the legitimate hospitality industry.”

Furthermore, the influx of bad hotels has led to an excessive supply of hotel rooms in the NYC market. When there are too many available rooms, hotel occupancy drops leading to: layoffs (an immediate problem for our members) and lower profits (a problem during future contract negotiations and discussions over wage increases).

The issues caused by decades of overdevelopment have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the extremely low demand for hotel rooms over the last two years.

“We have too many of the wrong kind of a hotel, and not enough of the right kind of housing” explains President Maroko. “‘HONDA’ is a common-sense solution to both problems.”

Our Fight to End Irresponsible Hotel Development

HONDA and the removal of bad, failing hotels from the market goes hand in hand with decades of other efforts by our Union to stop bad hotel development. This includes “special permits” for hotels, a thirteen-year campaign by our Union to require developers to get approval from the local community and elected officials for any new hotel project in New York City. Special permits became City law in December 2021.

Thanks to Governor Hochul, the State legislature, and advocacy by Mayor Adams, New York now has one more smart, thoughtful program that can protect quality hotels.