Tuesday, December 19, 2017

News from the Housing Task Force

The Housing Task Force, which is "working in tandem" with the DRI process to encourage the creation of more housing in Hudson--low-income or at various levels of affordability, depending, it seems, on who is discussing the need--met yesterday afternoon, and Gossips was there. The meeting began with a presentation by representatives of Key Bank about the bank's National Community Benefits Plan, a commitment to investing $16 billion over the next five years in mortgage financing to low- to moderate-income individuals and communities ($5 billion), small business lending ($2.5 billion), and community development lending and investment ($8.8 million) in the region serviced by Key Bank, and continued on for two hours. Gossips will report some of the more interesting information learned at the meeting.

The Housing Task Force was created by Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, but she was not present at yesterday's meeting, because she was ill. Rick Rector, mayor elect, told the group that Hamilton would not be participating in the task force anymore. Toward the end of the meeting, task force member Peter Meyer reminded everyone that this was a mayor's task force and wondered how it would be impacted by the change of administration. Rector said there would be "some form of housing task force" during his administration but suggested it might be reconfigured as a Common Council committee on housing. Joe Czajka, from Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, who seemed to be the recognized leader of the task force, noted that his group had "a commitment to the state" and said the work of the task force would continue through the next few months, with the goal of producing an action plan by the middle of 2018.

When the DRI came up in discussion, it was noted that there were four projects proposed for DRI funding that involved housing:
  • Pre-development for new housing at 6-14 State Street, 202-206 Columbia Street, and 213 Columbia Street
  • Homeowner improvement grants
  • Redevelopment of the Kaz site
  • A forty-unit senior housing development across State Street from Bliss Towers
The first three projects are ones that have been mentioned before, but the fourth is a new project being proposed by the Hudson Housing Authority, the entity that owns and manages Bliss Towers. The proposed senior housing development is expected to be three or four stories high, with commercial and/or retail on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. Possible uses suggested for the ground floor included a clinic, a drugstore, a grocery store, and a community room. 

In describing the plan to build forty units of senior housing, Timothy Mattice, executive director of HHA, and Randall Martin, chair of the HHA Board, spoke of "de-densifying" Bliss Towers. A third of the 135 units in Bliss Towers--the high-rise and the low-rise--are currently occupied by senior citizens. Mattice also talked about transitioning Bliss Towers to the RAD (Rent Assistance Demonstration) program, which, according to the HUD (Housing & Urban Development) website, "allows public housing agencies to leverage public and private debt and equity in order to reinvest in the public housing stock." Mattice said HHA was looking for a co-developer to "rebuild new public housing or rehabilitate what is." He expected an RFP (request for proposals) would be ready by the end of this month, and proposals would be in by the end of January.


  1. Thanks, Carole, for your account of last night's content-packed Task Force meeting. The point of task forces -- I ran one for the school district when I was on the Board of Ed -- is to have a core group of committed and qualified people work on a specific task for a limited period of time. Tiffany Hamilton's Mayoral task force on housing, which is a group of very talented and committed housing people -- was a terrific way of responding to the community's alarm over the DRI's initial omission of our low- and moderate-income population from the extant neighborhood's $10 million in spoils. And I applaud the Mayor for her courage in doing this, which I hope will be one her most important legacies: not forgetting the power of our small city's demographic diversity. The problem, however, is that our soon-to-be new mayor can erase this legacy, as well as the hard work the 20-some members have already put into the effort of making Hudson an affordable place to live for a wonderfully diverse socio-economic population, by killing the task force. And his comment at last night's meeting, as you report it, is not encouraging. Of course, he has the authority to kill the task force, and he suggested at the meeting that he would do so. This would be unfortunate since the current task force has the human resource talents to produce a solid and substantive report. It also undermines the attempts by the current task force leaders to assure the group that their many hours of work -- we haven't even had a chance to produce a report of our findings -- will be for naught. I urge the new mayor to establish as many Common Council committees as he likes (the more the merrier), but to see this task force through. It is making too much progress to throw out. --peter meyer

  2. Glad to see some motion on the housing front. There are some in the community who have been expressing disappointment that the DRI Grant isn't more housing-centric. It was never meant to be-- it's a economic development initiative. For those keen on housing as an issue, it's best to be supportive of the Task Force.