The saga of Stony Run, the privately owned 266-unit apartment complex in the City of Kingston, appears to have arrived at a more equitable resolution.
Having initially weathered distrust and vitriol for brokering the outlines of a deal to convert the apartment complex to workforce housing designation without the input or knowledge of the tenants or their union, mayor Steve Noble has now received their approval.
On May 1, a joint statement by the Stony Run’s Tenants Union and the political advocacy group For the Many thanked the mayor for negotiating improvements in the regulatory agreement, the shaping of which has been a crucible of sorts for issues of rent affordability and how those optics are perceived.
“The AMI thresholds have been significantly lowered,” read the statement released by Aaron Narraph Fernando, For the Many’s communications lead, “so that a majority of apartments are now set at 80 percent of AMI, securing Stony Run’s affordability in the event of deregulation.
Mayor Noble thanked the Stony Run Tenants Union “for their openness and their readiness to work together for a common goal.” He also thanked the developers and the members of the Kingston Common Council.
The deregulation anticipated in Fernando’s statement would arise if a future vacancy study assessing Kingston’s rental stock discovers a vacancy rate greater than five percent.
Such a finding would rescind the regulations tenants currently enjoy under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA). Current tenants, however, would retain existing protections from income requirements under the ETPA for the 40 years of the agreement, regardless of the results of future vacancy studies.
Included in the new deal is an across-the-board ban on short-term rentals, a municipal preference program which places Kingston residents at the front of the line when vacancies come up, and inclusion of two tenant representatives on the five-member Stony Run resident board. The three other three representatives are chosen by the property owners, Aker Companies.
“With this agreement,” noted mayor Noble’s press release, “Stony Run will become the largest affordable and workforce private housing complex in the City of Kingston and Ulster County.”
Stony Run will have income restrictions in place for rentals to future tenants based on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calculation of Area Median Income (AMI), the middle point at which half of the incomes of Kingston families are above it and half below it. The rent on ten percent of the 266 apartments will be capped at 110 percent of AMI, 15 percent of the units at the median point of AMI, 20 percent at 90 percent of AMI, and the remaining 55 percent of the apartments at 80 percent of AMI.
According to city director of housing initiatives Barek Starodaj, in 2021 one-person Kingston families had an AMI of $61,500 in 2021, two-person families $79,250, three-person families $79,063, four-person families $87,813, and five-person families $94,875. A common rule of thumb is that a family should spend no more than 30 percent of their income before taxes and deductions on housing.
Up to 50 units of supportive housing at Stony Run will be available for individuals making 60 percent of AMI or less. Aker must continue to accept Section 8, the federal rental assistance subsidy which helps make ends meet across the county. Section 8 rental assistance is only available to those making half of the AMI or less, with three-quarters of the Section 8 vouchers indicated for applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the AMI.
According to the American Community Survey, 19 percent of Kingston residents live below the poverty line. The threshold for individual poverty in America in 2023 is an income of $14,580 a year. For a two-person family it’s $19,720, a three-person family $24866, a four-person family $30,000, and a five-person family $35,140.
Under HUD rules, landlords in such complexes are allowed rent increases for capital improvements, a regulation which can be used to jack up rents. This deal requires Aker to secure agreement from the city comptroller prior to making major capital improvements.
Mayor Noble was optimistic that the details of the final agreement among the parties will be secured by July 1. “This is not a perfect deal,” he wrote in an open letter addressed to the Tenants Union published in Kingston Wire on May 10, “but it’s a very good one.”
In an article posted for a short time last week on the Hudson Valley One website entitled “Most Kingston city workers can’t afford to live at Stony Run,” the reporter identified four tiers of AMI limits as setting the top rent amount which tenants would be charged in each tier. This is not correct. The different AMI tiers are primarily income limits based on family size by which to disqualify applicants who earn above those amounts, thereby ensuring affordable rental options remain available to those who earn less. The owners also very recently lowered the rents at Stony Run.