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Abstract

With the exception of facilities set aside for people who cannot live independently, the law has historically given counties in New York State little or no role in addressing housing issues, with decisions being left to private enterprise, municipalities, and public corporations. Proposals are thus regularly advanced to grant powers to county governments to initiate their own housing programs. In 1992, the Attorney General of New York State issued an opinion that departs form previous opinions of his office and invites greater county involvement in low-cost housing. This article argues that under New York law, the role of municipalities is central in housing development and that county governments have few powers to initiate low-income housing programs. These roles are firmly grounded in a desire to limit public debt and to assure that subsidized housing is provided by municipal governments since they are in the best position to assess local housing needs and to provide such housing with the public services it needs. Part of the article includes a discussion on the constitutional and statutory limits on county housing powers in New York State, and thus whether county police powers authorize assisted housing programs and the extent to which counties can participate in federal housing programs.

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