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Upstate New York has rural housing affordability crisis

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

A new affordable housing development is coming to Lake Placid, an area facing a workforce housing crisis.

Fawn Valley, with six homes and 16 town homes, comes at a time when much of the area’s regular housing stock has become short-term rentals. It may benefit vacationers, but workers cannot find affordable housing nearby.

2020 report found the Lake Placid community needs more than 1,500 workforce and affordable housing units.

Steve Sama, president of Homestead Development, Fawn Valley’s builder, said the project should make a dent in the crisis.

“We feel it’s really important that essential workers are able to buy a house, or buy a town house, and own their own home in the place where they work,” Sama asserted. “We’re dedicating four town houses to the school district staffing, and four town houses to the local hospital for their staffing as well.”

Sama pointed out they have also made sure the Fawn Valley properties cannot be turned into short-term rentals. Instead, whoever buys them must live there. He knows it will not be the end of the housing shortage, and explained the plan is to continue building affordable units. He added Fawn Valley will be completed by the end of 2023.

Bruce Misarski, executive director of the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County, agreed the development will aid local people struggling to find a place to live. He noted originally, it was aimed at lower-income families, but changed after developers saw the problem spread across salary ranges.

Misarski acknowledged there has been a different focus on housing needs in the area.

“Most of the housing is done by private industry, by developers and folks who invest in the housing,” Misarski stressed. “So, that’s where the money has really been going; toward second-home building, and rentals for vacation folks.”

He has seen numerous community groups looking to create more affordable housing. Misarski added the rental market is not what it needs to be, and higher prices are another deterrent to owning a home in the region.

Lake Placid is not the only area with an affordability issue.

Mike Borges, executive director of the Rural Housing Coalition of New York, said price is not the only reason rural areas of the state face housing shortages.

“The housing stock in rural communities tends to be older than urban communities, and there is a lack of new housing being built,” Borges observed. “The current housing becomes older, becomes more decrepit or rundown, and we’re constantly losing housing stock in rural communities.”

Borges has seen an exodus of people from rural areas, even abandoning some homes, which exacerbates the problem. He hopes Fawn Valley will prove affordable housing can be built despite the current economic climate.

Categories: New York StateNews