With just days to go before the state’s moratorium on evictions was set to expire, the legislature on Monday said it planned to extend it to May 1. Meanwhile, affordable housing continues to be a frequent topic of discussion in Kingston, where the mayor recently signed an executive order requiring 10 percent of the units in virtually all new housing developments to be affordable and the common council plans to take on the issue in the coming months.
Over the last week, Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher also raise the issue. She described the lack of affordable housing as “the number one problem I see on our horizon” and that Ulster County “is nowhere where we need to be.” “It’s an income and wealth problem,” said Gallagher. “We need all the solutions that we can bring to bear. I think we need subsidized housing, in some cases rent control – [there are] a lot of different places that we need to think outside of the box.”
Mayor Steve Noble issued the executive order on December 14. It applies to new developments of five or more units. The 10 percent ratio is applied by rounding up; for example, a development of five to ten units would have to have one affordable unit, and a development of 11-20 units would have to have two affordable units, etc.
To qualify, a household has to earn 80 percent or less of the area median income, which ranges from $46,900 for a household of one to $72,350 for a household of five.
According to the press release, the cost of the housing unit will be calculated as to not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income and will be updated by the city annually.
“The basic concept is that we have so much pressure due to the pandemic and people moving to upstate New York, we expect that in 2021 there is going to be more focus on building here in Kingston,” said Noble. “In order to make sure we have at least minimum standards in place, we felt doing the executive order right now, while the Common Council is still trying to figure out what a local law would be, this would allow us to make sure we have affordable units.”
Noble referred to this as “temporary protection” while the Common Council prepares more lasting legislation. Noble’s executive order is only active for 30 days, although it can be renewed.
“That’s our plan,” said Noble. “We don’t know of any [development] yet, but we didn’t want to miss out on having affordable housing units be a part of the mix if an application comes up.”
“One of the problems with government is we are a deliberative body,” said Alderman Rennie Scott-Childress about the Common Council’s process on this proposed legislation. “That means we want to take care that we look into issues carefully and not just pass things rashly.”
Scott-Childress said the council has received input both from the city and county planning board, who had different recommendations that needed to be reconciled.
“The majority is on board with requiring 10 percent affordable housing for any development project for 10 units and above,” said Scott-Childress.
He expects that legislation might be passed by March at the latest.
The Common Council will have a public comment period for the affordable housing amendment on January 7 at 5:30 p.m. The council is also working on other housing legislation, including short-term rental regulations, and changing zoning codes to “get away from older forms of exclusionary zoning, which have a deleterious effect on poor folks.”