Governor Hochul: "In my State of the State address, with Rochester top of mind, and the extraordinary accomplishments here, we proposed a program to drastically reduce the risk of lead exposure in rental properties."
Hochul: "I love a big challenge. But all of you in this room are part of this and I thank all of you who have been willing to step up, add your voices to what we have to do here in Rochester and across the great State of New York. So, we're supposed to do this. It's bold, it's what we expect from ourselves, but we're going to do it."
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted her State of the State housing and lead exposure proposals during a roundtable discussion in Rochester.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks are available below:
Thank you. Thanks everyone. Thank you. Well, it's great to be back here. I was here literally Friday. I will say Friday there was a little more sense of a optimism than we might feel today after yesterday. But it always lingers because there's always next year.
And so, I'm glad to be back here with my friends, my partners, County Executive Adam Bello, who was there when we made - and Joe Morrelle were there when we made a major announcement on Friday. It was a huge investment by GM. It's always so much happier to come to a place when they're announcing more investments, more jobs, jobs not leaving instead of most of my life, it was the opposite. When the press releases came out and there was a name of a big company at the top, you're just like, "How many jobs are leaving?"
That's the world I grew up in, in Buffalo. You knew it here in Rochester, in the Finger Lakes area. So that's the world we lived in and lived as a past tense word because we're in a whole new era now, and I'm so proud to be here. And also, our Mayor, Malik Evans, I know he wanted to be there, but he was there with the National Mayor's Association meeting, figuring out ways to solve all the problems that are shared by many of our urban areas. So, I want to thank him for being the voice of this region nationally, but also for what you do here. Let's give a round of applause to our elected leaders.
And RuthAnne Visnauskas who travels everywhere, we've been on many, many events together and I'm really proud of what you do. You know, I go elsewhere all over the place. Sometimes I still have the mentality of a Lieutenant Governor and you're supposed to, "I haven't been to Rochester since Friday. I've got to get back." So, I travel a lot. But the work that you bring, working with Lenny Skrill, who is a rockstar, let's get a round applause to Lenny for what he does. You're changing people's lives. I mean, it's as simple as that. We're all put on this earth for a major purpose that has improved the lives of others. And you do that every day in your work, and I'm proud to be associated with you and your ideas and implementation throughout the next four years and beyond.
So, we are here, we were here last month to announce $10 million worth of downtown revitalization projects, including 76 affordable housing and supportive housing units just like we have at this beautiful facility here with 150 units. I mean this Upper Falls Square is extraordinary. DePaul, I thank you for all you've done here and to your leadership team. And I know Gillian Conde here and Mark. And just thank you. Thank you for knowing that there's many ways to earn a living, but to change someone's life by giving them the dignity of a good home, which I think is a basic human right, is really transformative.
So, we are in a different place now and in a very positive place, and I feel really good about that. And as we talk about where we go next, I'm always focused on, you know, the next years, the next decade and what we're leaving our kids and our grandkids - I'm a grandma, I get to say that, and leaving our grandkids. But it really puts on us a special responsibility, a moral obligation to make sure that the people we call our neighbors in our communities have some of the things that we don't have. You know, my parents may have started out in a trailer park where my little brother was born, and the story is he slept in a drawer because we didn't have room for a crib. And I came along nine months later, and we moved into a little flat, but we always had a roof over our head. We never worried. Parents had little houses and they got bigger as they did better.
But for people where housing is just out of reach, they can't afford it, or they need special services that you don't find in ordinary apartments. For society and really government and partnership with the locals to offer that to people, it's extraordinary. And I really believe in that. I really believe in that mission that we spoke about right at the top of our State of the State address to show my priorities and how we have a responsibility to address the health, but also the wellbeing, the emotional wellbeing of all of our citizens.
And one area we talk about, the health of our residents. You know, we've been talking about childhood lead poisoning I feel like my entire life. I mean, I don't know when this was first discovered as a problem. I know they stopped putting lead in paint decades ago, and one would think that well must be over now, right? I mean, how are we still talking about this in 2023? But it's real. It's real. It doesn't just go away when you paint over it with another kind of paint - it doesn't go away. The chips are still there. The windowsills that the kids are playing on, they're always moving. Chips are coming off and sometimes it's near the cribs and you know, there's no amount of lead that's safe and - "Oh, there's only a little bit." - That's not safe. And that's the reality we're living with.
And so, we also talk about the lifelong educational behavioral consequences of this exposure on kids and their families. I mean, results in higher number of kids having special needs. It results in diminished kidney function, pregnancy risk for adults and it's also economic. I mean, it affects an individual, it affects the family, but it's also economic. It's additional assistance needed in school with special ed. It's additional medical cost. It's loss of possible job opportunities and there's literally a connection between an increase in exposure and lead poisoning to higher involvement in the criminal justice system. So, there's a trajectory that is not going upward, it's going down. This can take someone down. It's no fault of theirs, no fault of theirs. They did nothing wrong other than live in a home that still had exposure to lead paint.
So, even just down the road in Buffalo, we had 450 kids diagnosed with exposure to lead poisoning and the data generated was that's going to cost another $94 million over a lifetime in lost wages and social assistance needed statewide. 7,000 kids. 7,000 kids in this day and age, not the first year it was discovered, decades later we have 7,000 children who've tested for this. High lead levels every single year. It's wrong, but I want to point out the other areas because I'm putting a spotlight on Rochester. We're doing it right. This is a shining example of what happens when you have a commitment from your elected leaders and their community partners to say, "No more." We have the power to change this; it does not have to be this way. We don't have to accept it. I cannot get over what has been accomplished here, and it was once one of the hardest cities. I mean all the statistics you don't want to be in, you don't want to be in this one. You do not want to be known as one of the worst places for children to be exposed to lead exposure. It all changed in 2005 a while ago, and the city adopted a Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Ordinance, a mouthful, but it's just common sense.
You know, when a city government steps up and says, "We have to do something," they determine that they can make a concerted effort to remove lead from homes, have training to keep families safe, what to look for. And since that law was enacted, 85 percent drop in the number of children testing positive for lead poisoning. 85 percent drop. Do you know how many more children are now liberated from the shackles that would've been there had they been exposed and all the ill-effects I just described? You know how many children will have none of these strikes against them because the city government made a decision to do something that was responsible?
They went from 3,500 cases in 2005 to 530 in 2021. Look at that drop. Other places, it's going up. So, I view Rochester as a shining star, a real example. And I come out of local government, 14 years in local government. So, I happen to know that local government often is the incubator for the best ideas. You know, your towns, your cities, your counties. No offense to Congress, Joe, but I spent some time in Congress, and I'm sure it's a nice incubator for something, too, you let me know. But Joe knows because he started local government too. I mean, Joe knows it percolates up. And what this city has done, in my opinion, is not just a model for New York State. It's a model for the nation. And that's what I'm putting here today is a special spotlight on this because we all agree the kids deserve to live in a healthy environment.
So, in my State of the State address, with Rochester top of mind, and the extraordinary accomplishments here, we proposed a program to drastically reduce the risk of lead exposure in rental properties. The state will apply and fund - now when you're in local government, you like that word. "And you're going to fund it, right?" A lead inspection requirement right here in Rochester in the 23 hardest hit cities across the state. We're looking outside of New York City, they have their own lead prevention program, but here's how it works: A rental unit's - before 1980 - required to undergo inspection every three years, what you do in Rochester, and they'll identify and, you know, put forth any risk areas. The owners of the properties that fail these inspections are required to remediate the lead hazards in order to keep their Certificate of Occupancy. It's a requirement, and we're going to assist these landlords in creating these safe conditions. We'll be providing state funding to help defray the cost of inspections mean they have to do the inspections every three years, but we'll help you with that cost.
We're not trying to make your job impossible. We want you to continue to offer these homes to people, and we'll also support renovations where conditions are so dangerous that they need to be identified or mediated. We'll also be providing staff to local health departments to help roll out the program and ensure compliance. There's many levels that deal with this. And so, in our opinion, following the Rochester model, these are just common-sense investments because every dollar we invest in lead remediation, they estimate a return on that dollar investment of $307. So how do you not make that investment? And that could be result in a net savings of $3.5 billion for New York State. So, let's do that. Let's get that done. Let's make it statewide. Let's bring about what Rochester's done. And I thank you. Thank you.
And just to recap what the Commissioner talked about, we're also, in addition to this, making existing homes safe for residents, as they should be. That should never be in question. We also want to make sure that there's equal access to housing. People of all income levels. Because right now, our state is experiencing something quite unprecedented, because many of us who are older grew up during that time when we had the brain drain and the out-migration and all the young people leaving. A lot of houses, the populations of places like Rochester and Buffalo, they dropped dramatically. So, there's plenty of houses. There just weren't any jobs. We started to not have any people.
So, what has happened now? It's actually really good, the good part is there's jobs, there's investments, there's opportunities, we produce the smartest young people in the nation who go to our great world-class universities, right here in Rochester, in the Finger Lakes region. Our colleges, community colleges, we are the best. So now we have a situation where employers want to come, they want to invest here just down the road. We've got to find room for 50,000 people because of Micron. And the supply chain, which is now over in Batavia just landed 600 jobs over there, and there's going to more in Rochester. You can't believe what's going to happen here. But now we have a housing shortage, and a shortage in particular of affordable housing, because the more demand there is, the prices go up. That's what's happened here.
I remember in Buffalo, not that long ago, all the median price of a house was $89,000, and then it went up to $127,000. It's like, wow, it's getting expensive. I think it's doubled, tripled that now, in such a quick time. So, families, their income didn't go up higher at that rate. Minimum wage didn't go up with that rate, although we want to tag it to inflation as one of my initiatives, because it's not anybody's fault that their earning power has gone down. But middle-income families, low-income families are just squeezed out. And the young people who want to have their careers here, and they're looking for that place to rent or maybe even to buy a condo with their first paychecks, it's not working anymore. And there's other parts that are seeing it worse than others, but as more people discover the joy of living in the Finger Lakes and in Rochester, it's going to get worse.
So, I introduced what we call the New York Housing Compact. 800,000 units will be built over the next decade. Now that's a fast clip, but I believe it has to be done, or else we're going to lose the battle for the talent. The jobs will go elsewhere if the people they want to hire can't afford to live there, or don't even have someplace available to them. That's what I'm worried about, exact opposite of when I was growing up. But that's the phenomenon, if we don't meet that need, if we don't meet this moment, then we're going to fail the next generation. That's the urgency that I'm bringing to this.
So, we're going to help our localities meet the objectives, we're going to help with new funding for infrastructure. You add more housing stock, you need more money for schools and sewers. Again, I know this, I live this, the roads. We are going to have a $250 million infrastructure fund to help them. We're going to incentivize new housing construction; help rehabilitate old neighborhoods or old housing into beautiful housing. Also abandoned properties. You know the malls. Some are doing great. Some part of them are going to stay open, but why not have mixed-use, even housing there on the same property. It's time to be creative and reimagine the future of housing and also, you know, if there's, you know, some of the properties are dangerous to live in, we can take some of those abandoned ones and convert them with assistance from the state, improve property values.
And so, there's so many areas where, you know, we can help people. And the cost of living I've mentioned a couple times, it keeps going up. It's been a really cold, brutal winter. My heat's still out in my house since Christmas Eve. House in Buffalo pipes burst, my heating system, drywall is a mess. We were at my house yesterday trying to make some dinner. I couldn't find things. All heating, heating, heating units all over the place. But we'll get through it. You know, I'm doing fine. Don't worry about me, but it's really cold. I just want to tell you, it's really cold. So, the question is to keep the thermostat turned up. You know, when it works, or are you going to put food on the table? That's a choice for too many families. Especially in the northeast, especially in cold areas like, Western New York and the Finger Lakes.
So, we're going to help tens of thousands of low-income individuals upgrade their appliances, make them more efficient, add more insulation, help them switch from fossil fuels, which in the long run are cheaper. So, we're going to help them as well. So, we want our local communities to step up, keep building, we'll help them meet their costs. We'll work to help remediate the lead paint by helping again, defray the cost. And also, finally achieve something that which is required of us. It's required of us to be bold, and I need every single community, the tiniest little hamlet, all the way up to our big cities to step up and say, we're in this together. We're New Yorkers. We have this once in a generation opportunity to show that we can build, we can overcome all the institutional barriers, all the local resistance, all the other issues that have gone on a long time because that way our kids can raise their families in the same community they were raised in because I don't want any more kids to have to leave this state as much as they want to stay. Not because they can't find a job, but because they can't afford to live here. We won't let that happen. That is my quest, that is my mission. That is a sense of urgency I'm bringing to, with every fiber of my body. I'm excited about it.
I love a big challenge. But all of you in this room are part of this and I thank all of you who have been willing to step up, add your voices to what we have to do here in Rochester and across the great State of New York. So, we're supposed to do this. It's bold, it's what we expect from ourselves, but we're going to do it. And with that, I'd like to introduce our Mayor, Mayor Malik Evans, and talk to us about what this program has done. Taking care of little kids, not having to be exposed to something that, you know, maybe many of their predecessors or even older siblings had to encounter, but we stop it right now.
We fight the violence in our streets. We're working together on that. We have more to announce on that very soon. But this is an important part, is in someone's own home, they should not become sick because of the environment they live in. That's a basic human right. Mayor Adam. Mayor Evans. Mayor Evans. Mayor Evans.