Advocates Say Region In Desperate Need of Affordable Housing
Charlotte Tusch is a 70-year-old painter who lives and works at The Lace Mill, an artists' affordable rental unit complex in Kingston.
"I feel like this is a savior for me. Prior to this, I was renting a space in another building and could not afford rent for myself for my own living space and for a studio space," said Tusch.
Not everyone has the same opportunity.
A recent Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress study shows Ulster is one county where renters aren't making enough money to pay for increasing rent prices. The average Ulster County renter has a $652 rent gap for a two-bedroom apartment at fair market price.
"Quite a few number of people in Ulster County, renters specifically, that are paying more than 50 percent of their income towards rent, which means they're actually severely cost burdened," said Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Senior Vice President Joseph Czajka.
Factor in transportation, and he added that you're looking at up to 75 percent of your income gone, not leaving a lot of room for food, clothing and other necessities. The study shows many affordable housing complexes aren't available to those who need it. Some have waiting lists of up to five years.
Those who work in the housing sector say the problem often roots at the local level.
"The chief barriers that we've had is zoning regulations that restrict multi-family housing, and the permitting process can be too often difficult," said RUPCO CEO Kevin O'Connor.
Patterns For Progress points to solutions like easing approval processes, and offering tax incentives for developers to make affordable housing units. While it may be hard to do, the CEO says they're critical steps forward for people who struggle to pay for their basic needs.
"These are real stories, these are real people that are trying to just survive," Czajka said. "These are people that are going to work every day; these are people that are sending their kids to school every day; these are people that are getting in their car, stopping in for a ham sandwich, and they just can't afford to live in many parts of the Hudson Valley."