(Another in a series on affordable housing)
GHENT—Hardly a week goes by without news on the housing front. Starting with Hudson and Philmont, here are some recent developments that affect the county.
On January 17, the Hudson Common Council unanimously approved the scattered site affordable housing project selected in 2022 by the Mayor’s office from proposals submitted by a number of developers. The project will be spread across three currently vacant city-owned lots.
On North 4th and State Street, where a parking lot is currently located, a two-floor mixed use, mixed-income building will be erected with 21 residential units and two community-oriented commercial spaces. (The developer will decide on the commercial uses in consultation with the city and the community.)
On Mill Street, across from the Charles William Park, a three-and-one-half story building will offer 60 residential units.
At both sites the units will range from one to three bedrooms with monthly rents from $499 to $2,074 with the majority in the range of $998/month (for a one bedroom unit) and $1,198/month (for a two bedroom unit). Such rents are “affordable” to city residents based on the median income of the community.
Additionally, two owner-occupied townhouses, each with three bedrooms and an attached three-bedroom rental unit will be built on Rossman Avenue.
The structures are designed to fit the character of their respective neighborhoods and are expected to use geothermal, solar, electric heating and other “green” technology and to be LEED certified.
Michelle Tullo, Hudson’s Housing Justice Director, said of the approval: “This development will provide much-needed housing for our residents at rent levels they can afford. Our whole community benefits when our residents can stay and when there is stable housing for our workforce.”
On January 13, the resolution approving a preliminary plat plan for The Woods development in Philmont was nullified by State Supreme Court Justice Richard Mott.
The Woods developers proposed to build 16 single family homes across a 22-acre hillside overlooking Summit Lake. A group of concerned citizens brought suit to void the preliminary approval granted by the village in September 2022, citing environmental concerns and violations of planning law processes.
In his opinion Justice Mott directed the village Planning Board to hold an additional public hearing based on the complete record of the proceedings; then to consider the village laws concerning driveway grades, fire apparatus access and road width based on a complete record and to clarify its rulings as to the applicability of those requirements; and to document any covenants restricting tree clearing on the homesites.
The Court denied the remaining objections to the project and ruled that the village had properly issued a “negative declaration” that there were no “significant impacts” on the environment or view shed posed by the project.
Also in January the non-profit Pattern for Progress (PFP) issued a report on “Overcoming Barriers to Affordable Homeownership in the Hudson Valley and Beyond.” (PFP had previously conducted studies of affordable housing needs in both the City of Hudson and the county as a whole.)
The report identifies four “key impediments” to home ownership:
•The inadequacy of household incomes to meet the costs of buying and maintaining a home, particularly among “racial and ethnic minorities, largely due to lasting impacts of historic and current discriminatory practices”
•The impact of property tax structures
•Zoning and building codes that favor single family homes on large lots
•Local resistance to changing existing laws and practices, as well as “Home Rule” autonomy for local governments that allows local regulation to govern housing issues.
To support the expansion of affordable housing opportunities, the report offers six “key strategies.” To temper “Home Rule” dynamics, the report suggests offering incentives to towns to work collaboratively on housing plans and tax agreements; conditioning state aid on a town’s having a housing plan that includes opportunities for affordable home ownership; and providing technical assistance to towns.
The report says property taxes are “regressive” because they do not reflect a taxpayer’s ability to pay. The PFP report suggests: tax structures that afford relief for subsidized or cost-burdened homeowners; income-adjusting property taxes; taxing “excess” property, such as second and third homes that are mostly vacant; and uncoupling school funding from the property tax.
Other strategies include zoning law refinement and increasing funding for down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time homebuyers. Recommendations also address environmental aspects of home building, through incentives for the use of sustainable materials and the siting of dwellings near public transportation hubs.
The PFP report was issued just days after Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her State of the State address, announcing the New York Housing Compact, a cluster of proposals designed to increase housing production throughout the state, with specific goals to be set for every village, town and city. While the targets have not yet been set, affordable housing will count as double toward the targets.
Governor Hochul explicitly recognized that the shortage of housing, and especially affordable housing, is among the causes of the state’s population loss and the location of talented and experienced residents elsewhere. She also characterized the state as having “the unenviable distinction of. . . leading the nation in restrictive land use policies and building approval processes that stymie growth.”
Relevant to Columbia County, the Compact proposes tax incentives for mixed-income projects; a property tax exemption for the construction of accessory dwelling units (self-contained apartments, cottages or other small residences located on a property that has a separate, main residence); tax exemptions to support major capital repairs; and laws making it easier for communities to take ownership of rundown and dangerous multifamily properties to enable rebuilding them into safe and habitable homes.
The state is already investing in “child care deserts”—the county is one. The Compact will provide additional incentives to housing developments that include dedicated child care space, such as Hudson’s just-approved scattered site project.
Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has just issued a three-year strategic plan committing to grow its capacity dramatically. In its first 30 years Habitat has built roughly one home/year. Its new plan envisions growth to three single family homes/year plus a multi-unit home in the county and assisting 2-3 homes/month with home repair services.