Monday, February 5, 2024

Nothing Is Forever

Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has built or renovated a number of houses in Hudson. The mission of Habitat is to create safe, affordable housing and provide homeownership opportunities to those for whom purchasing a home might otherwise be out of reach. Buyers are required to partner in the construction or rehabilitation of their home, investing "sweat equity," and be able to purchase their home through a third-party mortgage. Habitat for Humanity is celebrated for its success in creating affordable housing throughout the country. The one thing that seems to be lacking in the Habitat model is any proviso to keep the houses it builds affordable.

In 2013, Columbia County Habitat for Humanity built this pair of houses on Columbia Street. The assessment rolls show that the house on the left, 244 Columbia Street, was purchased from Columbia County Habitat for Humanity for $130,000.   

Today, according to Zillow, 244 Columbia Street is for sale for $499,000--almost four times what the current owners paid for it in 2013. Obviously, this kind of appreciation is good for the current owners, but it's not so good for a community struggling with issues of housing affordability.


  1. Good for them. I see no problem with it, especially if there's a minimum length of ownership/residency required before selling. This is how you create generational wealth for working class people. I prefer this model, as well as the other one that Spark of Hudson is doing. This improves our housing stock and increases property assessments. Rather than the the Galvan-type model which is to ask for PILOTs and state grants, earning profits off the generosity of taxpayers and building large, out of neighborhood character developments for the economy of scale.

  2. As I recall, having been a local Habitat board member at the time those homes were built, Habitat required its purchasers/mortgagors to hold their property for a minimum of 10 years and if they sell it before then, a second, springing mortgage attaches to the property which diverts any profits to Habitat. There is really no method to game the gift that it is a Habitat home.

    Beyond that, the reason housing is expensive in Hudson isn't because property owners are asking a great deal; property owners only ask (and get) what the market will bear. The reason prices are what they are is primarily due to the fact that supply is so limited: Hudson is a tiny city, the primary living structure is a single-family home on a suburban-style setback lot, the city's median age skews above average and many property owners have "old" (i.e. low rate) mortgages. Couple that with NYS's rather restrictive zoning, environmental and building codes and the cost of housing is not a mystery.

  3. This sale, if it goes through, will actually in the long run be a very good thing for housing affordability in Hudson. It will demonstrate that housing appreciation is possible even on the north side of Hudson, indeed even adjacent to a large concentration of public housing. The evidence that investment in that area is viable will help spur more renovation and more new construction, which will in turn increase supply and help stabilize prices. This outcome was by no means pre-ordained when the current sellers bought back in 2013. They took a risk back then, and they should reap the rewards of that risk.