Monday, January 13, 2014

Habitat Elsewhere

Last Thursday, Gossips talked about Columbia County Habitat for Humanity's focus on Hudson and suggested that the mission of building single-family houses in Hudson was not sustainable because there is so little land available to build on in our city of fewer than two square miles. Gossips' recommendation was that Habitat rehab existing houses--something that is regularly done in Newburgh and for which Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In Thursday's post, Gossips made the statement "It is obviously not within Habitat's mission or capability to build multifamily dwellings." While that may be true for Columbia County Habitat, it turns out that it is not true for Habitat in general. In a comment on that post, Jonathan Lerner provided the link to an article about Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, whose volunteers and families completed a 36-unit condominium development in March 2013.

When Columbia County Habitat for Humanity first proposed building houses in the 400 block of Columbia Street, people in Hudson who care about such things worried that the one-story house Habitat had been building on Mill Street would be incompatible in the new location.

Habitat's initial response, if memory serves, was to say that they built one-story houses because they couldn't put volunteers at risk working on higher structures. They obviously found a way to ensure volunteer safety, because in 2010, they built their first pair of two-story houses.

Columbia County Habitat rethought its one-story model. Three pairs of two-story houses later, with available building lots in Hudson becoming increasingly scarce, it may be time for them to rethink their commitment to building new single-family houses and consider either rehabbing existing structures or building multifamily dwellings.


  1. Thank you, Carole. Though I have long supported Habitat's good works, including in Hudson, the organization of late has been blind to Hudson realities (including, as you rightly point out, a dearth of opens space and a wealth of houses that could use rehabbing). This last brouhaha, pitting Habitat against community gardners, is troubling. I encourage Habitat to get back in touch with its roots and start paying attention again to the communities it claims to serve.

    1. Well stated Peter.
      Habitat can stop making excuses and work with the community and not against.

  2. Habitat Columbia County seems to suffer from a lack of imagination and dare I say some rather lazy thinking. I still think Habitat's plan for Columbia Street should be scrapped in favor of a broader, more long-term plan that integrates the city's housing needs with that of H4H's. At this stage, they seem wholly unconcerned with the broader needs of this city, and that is, as you say, unsustainable. After all, they're not called "Housing for Individuals"....they're called "Habitat for Humanity".