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Dutchess County Releases Housing Needs Assessment
Diverse Tool Kit Options Proposed to Address Long Simmering Housing Needs and New Challenges

Published: 4/6/2022

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced the Department of Planning and Development has released its 2022 Dutchess County Housing Needs Assessment, a comprehensive analysis of demographic and housing data and evaluation of trends over recent years as well as projections for affordable housing needs over the next two decades. The Housing Needs Assessment offers a focused strategy to tackle identified gaps for housing access, notably for renter households with annual incomes less than $50,000 and suggests an array of tools for the County and local municipalities to utilize.

County Executive Molinaro called for a new Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) in his 2021 State of the County Address to help address the issues in housing affordability and instability; the last assessment was completed in 2008. The assessment began last fall, under the direction of czb LLC, a national urban planning and community development firm, in coordination with Dutchess County Planning & Development and a local steering committee consisting of municipal leaders, community housing non-profits, housing developers, real estate agents and others. The assessment also included multiple stakeholder interviews, who offered perspectives on rental and homeownership challenges and needs. 

“This Housing Needs Assessment is our catalyst for change; presenting data, trends and goals both the County and localities must use to help eliminate the gaps between what we currently have in housing and what people can afford,” said County Executive Molinaro. “We outline critical tools to be used to make a real impact. This is a priority for Dutchess County and we are prepared to make the necessary investments with over $20 million, including utilizing ARP funding and other resources.”

The HNA report reviews historical data and trends, which demonstrate that housing affordability challenges are not new in Dutchess County, however long-term shifts in demographic, housing, and economic trends create new urgency for action, as more households than ever are experiencing trouble affording housing. While the COVID pandemic amplified housing challenges, the analysis shows many of these trends were well established by 2019.

Among the long-simmering trends contributing to the current housing situation:

  • Population growth has leveled off while the median age in Dutchess County continues to rise. As many older residents choose to “age-in-place,” the number of homes available for younger families looking to buy into the housing market tightens;
  • Average household size continues to decline, leading to growth in total households even as overall population growth levels off;
  • Income growth has lagged behind housing costs, particularly for many renters and lower-income households, resulting in more cost-burdened households;
  • Growth in the number of higher-income households has exerted unexpected pressure lower down in the housing market.

The assessment includes a gap analysis, the difference between the number of units in a given price range and the number of households for whom the price range is affordable. Of note, Dutchess County currently lacks housing units for both the lowest and highest incomes. The limited availability of housing on the high end is a new challenge — as households with more purchasing power compete for a limited supply of units, they begin to reach down into the middle sectors of the market, creating a ripple effect through the entire market and affecting housing affordability at all levels. This is just one of several factors contributing to the cost pressures felt by today’s households, with the key takeaway being there is no singular cause for housing affordability pressures, and thus there is no single solution.

“Taking this fresh look at what has factored into housing affordability challenges locally across Dutchess is key to understanding how best to affect change moving forward. Being able to take this countywide analysis and focus on a variety of productive solutions for both our urban and rural communities will mean that affordability can be addressed more broadly and equitably” said Mary Linge, Director of Real Estate Development for Hudson River Housing.

The HNA’s strategy recommendation suggests focusing on developing interventions to improve affordable housing access for renters earning less than $50,000 per year. These households are far more likely to be cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing. To “catch up” on existing unmet needs for these renters, it is estimated that 2,155 additional housing interventions will be needed, broken down into an annual or “incremental catch up” goal of 108 additional interventions per year for the next 20 years.  Interventions can include construction of new housing units, rehabbing existing rentals into long-term affordable units, vouchers to assist with rental payments, or access to affordable homeownership.  

The HNA calls for a “fair share” approach to allocate housing interventions across Dutchess County to translate countywide goals into tangible goals for each jurisdiction. To do this, it is recommended a diverse toolkit of policies, programs and other tools be developed and utilized. 

Among the recommended tools:

  • Creation of a County Housing Trust Fund, with a recommended initial funding of at least $2 million per year;
  • Local site identification and preparation of generic environmental impact statements (GEIS) to reduce regulatory red tape;
  • Updates to local zoning and land use documents to allow for a broader array of housing options;
  • Local inclusionary zoning policies to reserve a portion of units in new developments as affordable;
  • Rehabilitation program that pairs newly implemented income restrictions with upgrading smaller, existing rental properties to create new affordable units, particularly in rural communities;
  • Development of uniform tax exemption policies via Industrial Development Agencies to support workforce and affordable housing.

Deputy Commissioner of Housing Anne Saylor said, “This report is the first step in a larger conversation we must have as a community about how we want Dutchess County to look in 2040, and what role housing plays in that vision. While the public is often concerned about the impact of new housing on their community, it is important to realize that failing to create a wider diversity of housing is already changing our community. Looking ahead, the Planning Department is taking an active role in supporting these conversations at both the county and municipal level to aid in the development and implementation of policies that work best for each of our unique communities.” 

“We thank all of those who have devoted time and energy in developing this report. It is presented in a digestible format and lays out tangible steps, with a manageable number of policies within the control of the County and local municipalities to help create or maintain housing affordability.”

There will be a presentation of the Housing Needs Assessment report at the Dutchess County Legislature’s Committee Meeting tomorrow, April 7th at 4pm. Read the full Housing Needs Assessment report online.

Other upcoming presentations on the Housing Needs Assessment include:

  • Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Contact Breakfast - April 20th at 7:30am 
  • Dutchess County Planning Federation Webinar – May 5th at 5:00pm

“Having a safe and affordable home is the basic foundation of a community and cornerstone for a family.  Housing accessibility is a critical need and we will work aggressively to create more workforce housing and opportunity for our residents,” concluded County Executive Molinaro.

County Executive Molinaro will discuss the Housing Needs Assessment and the County’s funding commitment during his upcoming 2022 State of the County Address scheduled for Wednesday, April 20th at 5pm, which will be available via live stream on