Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Vacant Building Debate

Three years ago, in April 2015, the discussion of creating a vacant building registry in Hudson and requiring owners of buildings held vacant for extended periods to pay an annual fee was introduced in the Common Council Legal Committee. That was back when John Friedman chaired that committee. In the ensuing years, the topic has come up from time to time, but no actual legislation, tailored to the unique situation in Hudson, has ever been drafted. 

At the Legal Committee meeting this past Wednesday, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) once again brought up the issue of a vacancy registry, complaining that it has been before the committee for months (actually, it's been years), and there has been no progress. She urged the committee to look at similar legislation in Albany and Watervliet and use it to draft legislation for Hudson. Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward), who chairs the committee, suggested that the committee should wait until the mayor's Housing Task Force completes its work.

Members of the Housing Task Force (left to right): Rebecca Wolff; Mark Morgan-Perez; Dan Kent, Galvan Foundation; Joe Czajka, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress

The subject of vacancy came up at Friday's meeting of the Housing Task Force. It seems the issue of vacant buildings will be addressed in the Strategic Housing Action Plan being drafted by the group. The subject was broached when Joe Czajka, senior vice president of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, who is chairing the task force, commented that there are buildings in Newburgh that sit vacant for decades. Mark Morgan-Perez expressed the opinion, "If a person's strategy is to buy a property and sit on it, they should pay." Morgan-Perez's statement brought to mind something said by Tom Swope back in March 2012 when he was the executive director of Galvan Initiatives Foundation. Speaking on the WGXC radio show @Issue, Swope explained that previously it had been "hard to justify economically" developing all the properties Eric Galloway had acquired, but "under the guise of the foundation," which at that point had only just been created, "we can make it make sense." On Friday, Dan Kent, the current vice president for initiatives for the Galvan Foundation, responded to Morgan-Perez's statement by saying, "That's going to add to the cost of the rent, because it will cost more to develop a property." Kent went on to say, "Is [a vacancy tax] an effective incentive? From our perspective it is not."

Although the Strategic Housing Action Plan does not yet seem to be in its final form, it is anticipated that it will be adopted by the Common Council by the end of June. It is expected that the document in its current form will be presented to the Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee at its next meeting, which takes place on Wednesday, May 2, at 6:45 p.m., in City Hall.


  1. A young couple, interested in moving to Hudson, just asked me about all the empty houses they have seen here.

    It has spooked them from investing in Hudson.

  2. I'd think that a vacancy tax is an effective incentive for owners to 1) fill vacant properties, and 2) not acquire more properties than they can handle.

    We've all heard large-scale polluters saying the same thing, that from their perspective fines were not an effective incentive. Well, what else would they say?

  3. Assess all the properties at full market value. That would create incentives.

  4. Slight correction.. assess as all "warehoused" properties at full market value.

    1. Hudson, like most Columbia County municipalities, strives for 100% FMV assessments. Due to the rapid bid-up in the prices paid for properties in Hudson (the actual city, not the zip code), 100% of all arms-length sales in 2015 - 2017 were above the City-assessed FMV. This has the result of pushing down the assessment rate (it's at 85% of FMV today I believe) and forcing the City into a revaluation (which was supposed to happen last year but . . . ) that just started.

  5. If Galvan is troubled by the prospect of rent increases resulting from a vacancy tax, then the obvious solution is to rehab the buildings and get them occupied, or put them back on the market for purchase by someone else who will. Galvan certainly has enough financial resources to do the former, and enough properties from which to select a few to do the latter.

    The comment that a vacancy tax will not be "an incentive", put forth by this developer, has to win the prize for unmitigated gall.

  6. “Demolition by Neglect” is the term used to describe a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a historic property to suffer severe deterioration, potentially beyond the point of repair. Property owners may use this kind of long-term neglect to circumvent historic preservation regulations.