Members of Ulster Activists (U-Act) are among the many groups and individuals sounding the alarm about the present housing crisis in New Paltz and the remainder of the county. Representing that group, Jane Schanberg provided both input about and the offer to help with questions around providing more and diverse housing options locally. The input elicited reactions from board members.
Schanberg shared some statistics about the current state of the housing market: prices are up, inventory is down, no one’s building new and thus housing costs are rising in a community where average wages are relatively low. The village’s affordable housing law ensures that at least 10% of units in larger projects get priced according to a complex formula to be more affordable, but that is only new construction.
Group members believe that two especially large projects in the works in the village might be modified to better fit the housing needs in the village, which they have identified as places for senior citizens, single parents, couples and families. The first is the plan finally to develop the 2.4-acre “pit” parcel across from Hasbrouck Park into a hotel, offices and retail. U-Act members believe apartments there would be a better fit. Just south of campus on Route 32, the New Paltz Apartments proposal would put in a total of 650 beds marketed for students in cottage-style buildings. Schanberg explained that group members believe that the size of those units would not be conducive to anyone other than students, and thought that a broader array of housing needs might be considered. Neither project would add “affordable livable housing for citizens.”
Mayor Tim Rogers asked if group members didn’t believe that having 650 students who might be renting elsewhere in the community move to these “New Paltz Apartments” — presuming that college officials stick to what the mayor has described as repeated promises over ten years not to increase enrollment — would open up housing stock by making many homes available for rent or for sale.
Part of the challenge of a project like this, Schanberg suggested, is that one of the pressures on the local housing market is coming from people who now live and work in New York City, making a high enough income to “easily” afford the taxes. The concern is that houses coming onto the market might be scooped up by downstate buyers of second homes, doing nothing to alleviate the local housing problem. Schanberg had more to say, but deputy mayor KT Tobin ending that comment by cutting Schanberg off, noting that this was a Planning Board decision and not under the Village Board’s purview.
What Tobin said is not true. The land for the New Paltz Apartments project is not in the village at all, and a petition to annex it into the village is part of the application. Village trustees will be voting on whether to bring this property into the village. That makes it a Village Board decision. While it was not raised, the activists’ suggestion that apartments in the pit would be better for the community than a hotel would also technically be under the Village Board’s purview, because that parcel isn’t zoned for residential. The applicant has not asked for a zoning change, but zoning changes are also decisions made by the elected village trustees.