Friday, October 27, 2017

How Many Times Can You Say Affordable?

Last night was the first public engagement workshop for the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative)--the first of four. Additional public meetings for the DRI are expected to take place in November, December, and February. 

After an introductory presentation by Steve Kearney, from the Stantec Urban Places Group, the members of the public, seated once again at primary school cafeteria tables, were asked to work in groups of ten to define what they believed to be priority projects for the BRIDGE District. (Just a reminder: The BRIDGE District is everything from Second Street to the river, and BRIDGE is an acronym for Build Renew Invent Develop Grow Empower.) After working together for half an hour, each group was to share the five projects they'd agreed upon as priorities.

When the fourteen tables reported their priorities, affordable was the word heard most often--affordable housing, affordable rental and commercial space, affordable restaurants, affordable food. Other terms heard with some frequency were food hub, connectivity, accessibility, and workforce development. 

Dan Udell was there to videotape the event, and you can watch that video here.


  1. This is great news for Hudson. And no matter what happens with the DRI, I hope the new mayor gets the message and makes room for a Housing Commissioner in his administration. ---pm

  2. I'm a little confused by these groups and the input. Aren't there specific guidelines from the state as to what this money can and cannot be used for?

    1. The Stantec consultants are helping to keep things within the guidelines which are appropriate for each phase.

  3. At my own table, when I acknowledged that affordable housing wasn't a priority for me (for practical reasons), I heard at least one horrified gasp as if I'd openly admitted to racism.

    Perhaps other tables had similar experiences, in which case the bullying Groupthink of my same-race neighbors may partly account for why housing came out on top overall.

    But as long as the priorities established at the meeting aren't binding on the outcome, then it's better to investigate the housing issue sooner rather than later.

    For one thing, it's well worth investigating. There are desirable planning options which this DRI can support. But eventually - and hopefully long before March - people's idealism will reach the limits of what's possible in Hudson, let alone what's desirable. Perhaps they'll even make a realistic connection between available jobs and affordable housing, but I won't hold my breath.

    So yes, let's explore the affordable housing theme and implement its planning to the limits of practicality, but to the "housing bullies," I say get your advocacy in proportion to other interests or we'll all be at odds with one another come March.

    Following the meeting, I made this same argument to one of my table mates. My observation was immediately turned back on me, as if my pursuit of my own interests were equally guilty. The fellow turned away before I could inform him that I never even mentioned my own project that evening, which was one of the few chosen for mention in the DRI application.

    Of course if I didn't viciously defend my own project and the $165K requested for it in the application, then that was entirely my own fault. But of the behaviors of several housing advocates I witnessed on Thursday evening, their combined sanctimony and unwillingness to compromise portend a great nastiness to come.

  4. I thought the evening went well. If housing does move forward, and likely part of the Montgomery Street Redevelopment project, it will be mixed-income housing.

    Yes, workforce development is essential and I've already informed the Mayor that there needs to be workshop on that subject alone. You have to look at the current needs, five years and ten years down the road.

    And of course: parking hasn't been discussed yet.

  5. Shouldn't the Ferry St bridge be fixed immediately .

    1. The money is already in place for the Ferry Street Bridge. It's coming through the Department of Transportation, and the work is going forward on DOT's schedule. The first phase, designing the structure of the bridge, is already underway. The actual construction of the bridge will happen in 2010:

  6. In a City filled with historically-minded people, many of whom are artists and designers, it's reasonable that the bridge design might benefit from public input.

    Unfortunately, it's probably a safe guess that the main access to our future waterfront will congeal on the drafting table of some engineer, someone who's quite possible an aesthetic dunce bereft of historic sensibility. (Few realize that the existing bridge is unique as the last of its kind in the nation).

    Eventually, those who might have offered useful input beforehand will be invited to comment on the usual Hobson's choice, which is to say a free choice in which only one bridge design is offered.

    Somebody please tell me that I'm wrong, and that the City of Hudson has turned the corner on this ancient and stupid practice.

  7. Affordable housing, according to HUD, is housing which occupants are paying no more than 30% of their income to, including utilities and other conventional housing expenses. With Hudson's outrageously high property (city and school) taxes, despite whether one owns or rents, the math is very challenging for mere mortals to meet. Median household income in Hudson is about $35k. That means affordable housing must cost under $875 per month, including utilities and other subscription services. Which means, with the water and sewer bill, National Grid, cable/phone/satellite and garbage bags from city hall, we are talking about rent of $545/month. Or, if one is lucky enough to have $40k saved up, owning a house costing around $100-$120k. Hmmmmm. With property taxes to be paid by the landlord or the homeowner, that only leaves room for substandard housing. Remember, landlords have to pay property taxes, which are very high. The government would then need to step in to provide affordable housing in Hudson on top of what it already provides. I don't see that happening in our current political environment. This new state project with its $10 million grant and multiple interests in the proverbial grab bag cannot begin to solve or even put a dent in the affordable housing conundrum Hudson is currently facing.
    As the city has developed at a meteoric pace in the last twenty years, there is less and less room for low-income people.
    What will happen?

    1. "The government would then need to step in to provide affordable housing in Hudson on top of what it already provides."

      Exactly, which is precisely why the DRI program aims to be a jobs-creating initiative.

      People like myself relocated to Hudson because we were priced out elsewhere, and at some point will have to move on again for the same reason. In the meantime, I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that Hudson will solve the world's gentrification problems.

      It doesn't bode well for Hudson natives who are also being priced out, but that's where fresh employment opportunities can help (read: DRI).