Not only is there a need for more affordable rental units in the village of Saugerties, but the addition of such units “can create jobs, increase tax revenues, and generally foster economic growth,” according to Guy Kempe, vice president of community development for RUPCO.
Kempe was speaking at the Village Planning Board’s May 14 meeting on behalf of the 42-unit Country Meadows development proposed by Premier Development for North St.
On the other side of the argument is local realtor Steve Hubbard, who owns a number of rental units in the village. In a letter to the board, he writes that approval of Country Meadows “… might ultimately put me, a 40-year resident of Saugerties, landlord, property manager, and real estate broker, out of business.”
Hubbard, the only resident to express formal opposition to the project, submitted the letter at the beginning of the meeting. Upon learning the board would no longer take oral testimony from the public he left the meeting, leaving behind his letter.
Hubbard wrote that he was expressing “the overwhelming opposition on the part of Saugerties village and town residents to the proposed Country Meadows project.”
However, when the board held a public hearing on the project in April, no members of the public attended to speak out against the plan.
Hubbard insists in his letter that there is a “vacancy rate in the village and town of from seven percent to 10 percent respectively, according to our most recent comprehensive plan.”
He said this vacancy rate is due, in part, to the lack of jobs.
Hubbard added that there are “459 affordable housing units in the village and just over the village line in the town — more than any other community in Ulster County but for Kingston.”
He adds, “… Not only would the Country Meadows project continue to undermine and destroy the local residential rental business but would continue to undermine and ultimately destroy our healthy sense of community, which is already seriously at risk because of our greater number of renters as compared to tax-paying property owners.”
Kempe said the Center for Housing Policy in Washington, D.C. researched affordable housing projects throughout the country and concluded that “building and operating affordable housing increases spending and employment in the surrounding economy, acts as an important source of revenue for local governments, helps local businesses attract and retain employees, and reduces the likelihood of foreclosure and its associated costs.”
If the Country Meadows project gets final approval from the Planning Board — as it has in similar form three other times — RUPCO would assist in listing the units and screening potential renters. Once the project is fully rented, RUPCO, which is a partner with Premier Development, the developers of the project, would take over its operations.
In order for the developer to move forward it needs state funding to help offset costs of construction. On each of the first three projects proposed for this location, that funding did not materialize and the board’s approvals expired.
Past incarnations of the project called for 55 units with a mixture of senior and workforce housing units. This plan calls for 42 units, also a mixture of senior and workforce housing.
Kempe said that, “being a homeowner has long been regarded as a measure of success in the United States. This high regard for homeownership has historically ingrained negative and largely false perceptions about renters, and has fueled local opposition to the development of affordable housing in many communities.”
In some cases, Kempe said, opposition to such housing can be seen as a violation of the Fair Housing Act and discrimination “on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, handicap, or familial status.”
He urged planners to take a broader look at the value of affordable housing and the merits of Country Meadows’ plan.
No decision was reached on the application, and planners continue discussing the application at their June 11 meeting.