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News Release    

October 16, 2003

 

Steinhaus Announces Formation of Workforce Housing Coalition

Poughkeepsie... Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today plans to develop a coalition to address workforce-housing issues. The County Executive assigned the development of the coalition model to Roger Akeley, Commissioner of Planning and Development and Anne Saylor, Housing Coordinator, as the best way to implement recommendations prepared by the Smart Growth Housing Task Force, commissioned by Steinhaus in 2001.

Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus said, “I believe the development of a coalition of partners to address workforce housing issues is a natural next step in our on-going efforts to handle this need in our community. This model is similar to the successful public/private partnerships I have created for the implementation of our economic development strategies as well as our Greenway plan for smart growth management.”

Steinhaus continued, “While Dutchess County is not alone in dealing with the challenge of having a full range of housing options available for our residents and our workforce, through this coalition we will remain out front and active on the issue.”

Critical to the success of this initiative will be participation by local municipalities within the County. This is because according to New York State law, zoning and other land use regulations are controlled entirely at the local municipality level.

The three basic coalition principles will be, first, to make a community priority the need for a diverse workforce that lives locally to insure continued economic prosperity in Dutchess County.

The second principle is for the 20 towns, 2 cities and 8 villages who want to agree to take specific actions to create workforce housing within individual communities all across Dutchess County. Members and localities will be given a menu of possible actions to take to address workforce housing issues.

A final principle will be to support the need for a broad range of housing types and prices to address the housing needs of a diverse workforce. The focus will be on households with annual incomes between 60 to 120% of the County median annual household income (apartments for households between 60 to 80% and homeownership for households between 80 to 120%). Dutchess County’s median family income in 2003 is $68,100.

The Advocacy arm of the program may be the most important. Advocacy will address affordable housing issues at the local level through the master plans and zoning ordinance process, support letters for proposed projects, education on housing issues and goals, and an advertising campaign to create awareness on housing issues.

An Employer Assisted Housing Program will have two components: an “Employer-Based Homebuyer Education Program” to provide homebuyer education on site and an “Employer-Based Down-payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program.” This program would create a matched saving program for local employees.

In developing the coalition framework, a number of organizations were contacted and interviewed for their comments regarding the issues they are facing with relation to the price and/or supply of housing in Dutchess County. All of those interviewed agreed with the purposes and structure of the coalition concept. “We cannot be resigned to the idea that we can only produce housing that sells for $300,000 or more,” said realtor Bill Lavery, “a coalition won’t solve the problem overnight but it can set a climate for developing new programs which will encourage a broader range of housing types.”

For example, the interviews showed a growing number of municipalities acknowledge the need for moderately priced housing. Supervisor Peter Idema of the Town of East Fishkill said, “The town has been supportive of the development of moderately priced housing. Recent zoning changes will result in some less expensive units being offered by developers.”

An official of Vassar Brothers Medical Center said the hospital is clearly being impacted by housing costs because it is having an increasingly difficult time hiring for entry-level jobs and professionals such as nurses and technicians. Candidates for professional jobs who would need to relocate often refuse job offers after looking into housing prices. Increased apartment inventory is one of the aims of the coalition. According to Beth Coleman, President, Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce, “We have a less than 2% rental vacancy rate. There need to be more sites made available for multi-family units.” Businesses are interested in the employer assisted housing program, and the Chamber of Commerce will help advertise the program through its membership and training sessions at its offices.

Coalition members will include representatives from involved employers, housing non-profit agencies, interested local governments, the Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce membership, Mid-Hudson Builders’ Association, county officials and other groups with related interests. The County Executive will host a meeting with various stakeholders to further frame the coalition membership.

Steinhaus concluded, “Like our successful Greenway Compact, localities and coalition members will be asked to ‘sign on’ to accept the Coalition’s principles and encourage the development of workforce housing, but importantly local communities will not be told how to fulfill the principles. A menu of possible actions is available for each community to consider. The Greenway bottom-up concept is a proven way to achieve change through voluntary community and local government partnerships. The Greenway model I launched is a recognized success and I know we can replicate it with the Workforce Housing Coalition.”

For more information contact:
Anne E. Saylor, Housing Coordinator
Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development, (845) 486-3600

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