KINGSTON – The Ulster County Legislature held a special virtual session Tuesday evening to share an update on the Golden Hill housing project and to discuss the serious nature of the housing crisis in the county.
The county’s LDC has just approved the developer agreement with Pennrose, a New York City-based real estate agency, for the Golden Hill project, which will include 80 senior housing units, 80 units at 30-130 percent the county’s annual mean income, a 5,000 square-foot community building, green heating, green cooling and support services for tenants from local non-profit partners on-site.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, referencing the data found as a result of the recent report from Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress on the county’s housing situation, the county needs to make the public aware of how serious the housing crisis is.
“The work of the report is meant to be both data for us to craft a really effective response, but also leverage for us to use to make the case to the public that this is not an issue of some small percentage of our county but it’s an issue of every single resident, it’s an economic development issue and it’s also a moral issue that every person should be able to afford to live with dignity in the county,” said Ryan.
Some key points of data have created concern for county officials, included an aging county population, proof of annual incomes decreasing from the median to poorest household, but increasing for the highest earners and the inability of median income households to afford homeownership in the towns where they live.
In terms of renting, the report found that the average hourly wage of a renter in the county is $13.33, with an affordable rent being assessed as $1,155 per month. This would mean a renter making that wage would have to work 67 hours a week for their rent to be “affordable,” where affordability is defined by being less than 30 percent of annual income. It was noted the five largest job markets in the county, including government, retail, and foodservice, have average incomes that do not meet the requirements for homeownership to be affordable by that definition.
The county legislature is hoping to increase housing developments like the Golden Hill project and other possible segmented developments as solutions to the problem.
For the Golden Hill project, the estimated timeline includes 2021- community engagement; 2022-2024, financial closing and construction; and 2024-2025 tenant leasing/moving in.
The legislature acknowledges that this is not as expeditious of a process as they would hope but will be voting this month on the creation of a county housing board. That board is anticipated to create more solutions and increase community dialogue on housing, which is the next major focus of combating the housing crisis in the county.