Moving Forward on Affordable Housing
Improve our city and better serve our residents
September 26, 2022
We need more affordable housing in Hudson and Columbia County. I’ve had a pregnant neighbor forced to move just weeks before her due date, and another family had to leave the neighborhood right after major surgery. In both these instances, we failed to provide an adequate safety net. I value the economic diversity of our community, and we need to improve systems so that we better serve the people who live here.
We have seen progress since I took office in 2018.
- I helped secure a $1 million anti-displacement grant for the City of Hudson.
- I worked on a grant funding new housing support.
- I helped secure grant funding for a collaboration between the City of Hudson and the Hudson Housing Authority for the purchase of new energy-efficient refrigerators, which will reduce climate emissions, save money, and improve residents’ quality of life
- I facilitated the creation of two affordable housing action plans — one for the city of Hudson and one for Columbia County. These plans give clear next steps to ensure working families and seniors have safe and affordable housing.
- I helped establish two Housing Coordinator positions, one for the City of Hudson and one for Columbia County. For the first time in recent history, there is staff time working to identify potential sites and recruiting developers for the creation of affordable housing.
- I’ve advocated for better services for people without homes.
- I’ve assembled a resource list and connected constituents to services.
- I advocated for increased state support and tenant protections.
- A new affordable housing development, Greenport Gardens, opened on Joslen Boulevard.
- There are several new affordable housing proposals for Hudson residents.
- Led by Mayor Kamal Johnson, the City of Hudson and Columbia County collaborated on the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) mapping report, which recommends the creation of a Wellness Hub that will allow for the re-location of the PEOPLE, USA 20-bed DeTox Center onto the property and the development, over time, of needed services such as supportive housing.
Table of Contents
I’ve been a consistent advocate for affordable housing and helped organize community forums and educational events.
We still have more work to do. In this article, I summarize housing studies and provide some additional solutions to explore. Now is the time to move these forward. Please contact your local, state, and national elected officials and tell them to support these initiatives. Join me in researching and specifying solutions.
Summary of Possible Actions
- Identify ways to increase density through zoning and regulation, potentially including a vacancy tax and AirBnB regulation
- Require affordable housing on new developments
- Fund affordable housing through a real estate transfer tax
- Create a land bank
- Connect people in need to existing grants, education, and opportunities
See below for more details on these initiatives.
Housing Stability Has Benefits Beyond Housing
Housing stability is key for creating opportunities. In a January 2018 research report by the Urban Institute, Corianne Scally reports:
Those who need housing assistance but do not receive it face the threat of housing instability and may end up doubled up with family and friends or experiencing episodes of homelessness… Homelessness can lead to a particularly vicious cycle. Families may experience multiple stays in shelters or other homeless programs or become involved with the child welfare system. Individuals, particularly those with disabilities, may fall into a pattern of heavy use of emergency shelters, emergency rooms, and local jails.
Alternatively, Scally notes, those who get housing assistance are less food insecure, are healthier (particularly for girls), and have better educational outcomes. Tenants’ rights are also associated with positive health outcomes. It is 29% cheaper to provide housing to people with serious chronic mental illness than to allow them to become homeless. A recent UCLA study found that housing has positive impacts on health, crime, and employment.
In the 2017 Housing Needs Assessment of Columbia County, school staff and administrators note how the lack of affordable housing in Columbia County poses education difficulties. Homelessness and housing instability can be traumatic for students, and the school allocates staff and volunteer time and other resources to help compensate.
The lack of affordable housing is also hurting businesses. Many businesses are operating at reduced hours or cannot grow because there aren’t workers.
Housing stability is an essential component of a healthy community. We need to address this issue in order to address education, economic development, public health, and public safety.
Defining Affordable Housing
Housing that is affordable costs no more than 30 percent of a household income for low-income households. For renters this includes rent and tenant-paid utilities. For homeowners this includes mortgage, insurance, and taxes.
We Need More Affordable Rental Units
The 2017 Housing Needs Assessment concluded that good quality, cost-accessible family rental housing is scarce throughout Columbia County. Hudson’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant application states that “43% of households pay more than 30% of their household income for housing—a standard calculation of economic strain.” This is not a new finding, Hudson’s 2012 Housing Needs Analysis found a particular lack of cost-accessible units for households with a $15,000 income or less. It also found that 44 percent of renters are paying more than 35 percent of their income for rent.
The expected homeless rate in a community begins to quickly increase once median rental costs exceed 30% of median income, providing a statistical link between homelessness and the U.S. government’s definition of a housing cost burden"Inflection Points in Community-Level Homeless Rates"
As of early 2018, The Hudson Housing Authority issues up to 280 Housing Choice Vouchers, but only 225 are in use. There are 45 households with a voucher looking for a place to rent, which may be difficult because there are not enough apartments available at the voucher price point.
The Hudson Housing Authority issues Housing Choice Vouchers, but even households with a voucher may struggle to find a place to rent because there are not enough apartments available at the voucher price point. The waitlist for a voucher the city of Hudson is 245 households. (City of Hudson Affordable Housing Development Plan) (2017 Housing Needs Assessment)
Low and moderate-income tenants that find affordable housing often suffer from bad conditions, and because of the housing scarcity they fear reporting the issues. They worry that they will be evicted and then will have no other option. (2017 Housing Needs Assessment)
Support Sustainable Homeownership
The 2017 Housing Needs Assessment concluded that there is a scarcity of good quality moderate-income owner-occupied single-family homes. Likewise, the 2012 study found “A substantial proportion of Hudson’s homeowners are ‘housing cost burdened.’” Forty-two percent pay more than the recommended 30 percent of income to housing costs. Hudson homeownership is below the national average. Home prices have skyrocketed since the housing study. The median price of a single-family home has increased by $140,000, a jump of 58.6% since 2018. (Columbia County Housing Brief 2022)
Homeownership is an important step in economic opportunity. In a 2018 study, Goodman and Mayer report “Our Overall Conclusion: homeownership is a valuable institution. On average, it allows families to build wealth and serves as a measure of financial security.”
Black households have a homeownership rate that is only 45 percent of white households.
The 2017 Housing Needs Assessment found that credit issues and lack of housing stock contributed to this problem. Second homeowners, as well as younger buyers moving to the County, have increased housing pressures.
According to a 2020 national study by the Urban Institute, affordable homes are increasing in price at a higher rate than high-priced homes. This trend is increases inequality and points to the "need for policies to mitigate high housing cost burdens at the local level." Investors purchasing single-family homes are driving this trend that makes affordable homeownership and rental less affordable. In addition, there is a nationwide trend where out-of-town home buyers increase housing prices, according to a Redfin study.
Below are some established methods of improving affordable housing. None of these are guaranteed to solve the problem and will depend on the specifics of implementation. We should explore them and assess how they would be implemented and if there is popular support.
Create a Plan
An affordable housing plan that addresses our range of housing needs, and builds a roadmap and consensus. Without a plan, we run the risk of affordable housing stakeholders opposing a specific affordable housing proposal because it doesn’t address a different specific need. A plan establishes a vision and creates a coalition to support it.
We established the need for a plan back in 2017 — before I was in office. See comments from Mathew Nelson at the February 2017 Housing Forum that I facilitated. It took years to create the political power to move forward with a plan. But as of 2022, both the City of Hudson and Columbia County have plans. These plans build on the Strategic Housing Action Plan.
Create a Housing Coordinator Position
The first recommendation of the Strategic Housing Action Plan (SHAP) is to create a Housing Coordinator position.
In order for a fully integrated approach to address the housing needs of the City of Hudson and Columbia County, a full time coordinator is needed. The [Housing Coordinator (HC)] would have the responsibility of managing, tracking, and providing technical assistance and coordination of housing services among community based organizations in Hudson to ensure implementation of the SHAP. The HC would also act as a single point of contact and facilitate applications for state and federal grant opportunities. The HC would also monitor housing conditions and act as a liaison between the City of Hudson, Columbia County and community based agencies.
Many overlapping departments and agencies work on housing, yet we aren’t getting the solutions we need. A paid staff member responsible for moving us forward could have a huge impact. Like the Housing Action Plan, it took years to build political will, and in 2022 both the City of Hudson and Columbia County have staff dedicated to ensuring residents have affordable housing.
Preserve Current Housing
The 2017 Housing Needs Assessment recommends preserving the current housing stock. It states that the “City of Hudson (zip code 12534) has an overall housing vacancy rate of 16.2 percent as of 2015, which suggests a level of disinvestment.” It recommends enhancing amenities and improving code enforcement. The 2012 study recommends education programs for homeowners and potential homeowners. These programs could help people make better-informed decisions and help support homeowners to hire and managing contractors. We may also be able to facilitate improvements through historic preservation and energy efficiency tax credits. Or more directly, we could create or facilitate grant fund programs for lower-income homeowners and landlords who rent to lower-income tenants. In 2022, the City of Hudson received a grant to support lower-income homeowners and landlords to lower-income tenants to make home repairs. This grant was only possible because of the increased capacity from the anti-displacement grant and housing coordinator.
Subsidize Affordable Housing
We could encourage affordable housing by providing financial incentives for lower rental or purchase income. See The Cost of Affordable Housing for an excellent overview of how this works.
Some options include:
- Reduction in taxes to providers through a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT)
- State funds
- Sale of government property at a reduced cost
Require Affordable Housing
One way to ensure affordable housing is to require a few affordable units on large construction projects. This would be easiest to implement when it involves government or government-related property, such as the Kaz development by the Hudson City Development Corporation.
Encourage More Units Through Zoning and Regulation
We should adjust policy to ensure more housing. If we have more housing, then options are likely to increase and prices are likely to go down.
- Consider a vacancy tax to discourage empty buildings and put more units on the market.
- Review zoning for opportunities to encourage density—consider structures in alleyways and building height. The changes could include the ease of restrictions or specific rewards for affordable housing.
- Review short-term rentals such as AirBnb and consider if a tax and/or regulation would help with housing stock. The County has created a subcommittee to explore this topic.
Actively Create Housing
In addition to the above proposals, the County and City should consider more direct ways of creating more housing. Columbia County should consider creating a land bank, a quasi-governmental nonprofit designed to acquire and facilitate the use of properties. As of November 2018, The New York Attorney General’s Office has invested over $82,000,000 in land banks. Columbia County is missing out on this funding opportunity.
In addition, The City or County could enact a real estate transfer tax to help fund the project. In the tax, a small percentage, .1 percent for example, is levied on real estate purchases. Red Hook, NY uses this tax to fund farmland protection. Several states use a real estate transfer tax to fund affordable housing. The tax rate could be progressive where it increases based on the sale. Similarly, Hudson’s lodging tax could be adjusted to support affordable housing.