Thursday, March 31, 2022

Affordable Housing and Columbia County

Yesterday, the Columbia County Housing Brief, commissioned by Columbia Economic Development Corporation and prepared by Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, was presented to a virtual audience of more than a hundred. The presentation started off with information about rising home prices in Columbia County and statistics about housing affordability. According to the statistics, 14 percent of households in Columbia County are "extremely cost burdened," that is, housing costs represent more than 50 percent of their income. This is true in differing degrees both for owner households (11 percent are extremely cost burdened) and for renter households (22 percent are extremely cost burdened). What is considered affordable is housing costs that represent 30 percent of the household income.

The presentation also identified the impediments to affordable housing.

The entire Columbia County Housing Brief 2022 can be found here.

During the discussion that followed the presentation, Katy Cashen, a member of the Town Board in Claverack, noted that the town's comprehensive plan, in the interest of preserving open space, required a minimum lot size for homes of five acres. Although such zoning prohibits density, it seems actually to sacrifice open space. Joe Czajka, of Pattern for Progress, used the term "exclusionary zoning" to describe it. Brenda Adams, supervisor for the Town of Canaan and former executive director of Habitat for Humanity, suggested that a template needed to be developed, on the county level, for protecting open space while providing for affordable housing. She expressed the desire "to keep our county rural." 

The study, which was about quantifying need and identifying resources, was acknowledged as a first step. When the question was raised about follow up, Mike Tucker of CEDC said there would be a debriefing with the panelists (Adams, Czajka, Darren Scott from NYS Homes and Community Development, and Brian Skoda, Taghkanic Town Supervisor) next week, the goal of which would be to identify five to ten next steps. Tucker concluded, "The true test is not what we do here today but what we do moving forward."

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