With resistance, Greene County votes to help affordable housing project
Ted Remsnyder reports for Columbia-Greene Media that ten of 14 Greene County legislators voted Nov. 17 to do a little something about the Hudson Valley housing crisis. They voted for some funding to a proposed workforce housing project in the village of Tannersville. Currently there are fewer apartments and homes to rent or purchase throughout the Hudson Valley, and more people trying to rent or buy homes in the Hudson Valley. When supply falls, and demand rises, prices go up. Part of the reason supply is down is that people are converting apartments and houses from long-term rentals or purchases, to short-term rentals. That trend is fueled by a lack of local hotel rooms. Local governments have few options: create incentives to build hotel rooms and apartments, and regulate short-term rentals. While local public officials lament that so many job openings remain unfilled locally, it may partially be due to low-wage workers no longer being able to afford a home or apartment in the Hudson Valley. In Tannersville, the Hunter Foundation and the nonprofit RUPCO organization are seeking state funding for a $20 million-plus project, for 80 units of affordable workforce housing in Tannersville for ski resort workers. Greene County voted to kick in $350,000 from the county’s $9.1 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. Legislators Michael Bulich, Matthew Luvera, Greg Davis, and Thomas Hobart voted against helping the housing project, and Bulich believes local businesses should be responsible for paying the costs of housing their own workers. “If this is what’s required, then you need to factor that into your costs of doing business. That’s just part of a business plan. Labor is a huge component of most businesses. So I don’t know how people get caught flat-footed in not planning for that,” Bulich said. Why didn't the ski resorts forsee that a global pandemic would drive thousands to move to the Hudson Valley and drive up housing costs, and dry up housing stock? Bulich argued that the Hudson Valley housing crisis was caused by people leaving the state. "I would argue that this crisis was caused by government. Whether you want to call it the highly regulated State of New York that pushed people out with families to southern states where the taxes and regulations are low, that’s where the people are going to go,” Bulich said. Greene County Legislator Jack Keller voted for the housing funding, and pushed back against Bulich's claims. “Hunter is in dire need of workforce housing, as are other towns in Greene County,” he said. “Catskill is one, especially in the village area. This is something that’s in progress, it’s not a theory. They’ve been working on this for years. I feel that if that money is granted to Greene County, then let’s start using it on projects that look like they’re going to go through. This one should go through. Let’s start, because if we don’t use what’s been allocated for us, eventually when the time comes we’re going to lose it. So let’s use it to enhance our county and take care of some problems.” Bulich argued that low-wage workers needing government help to afford living in this area were the problem. “I worked my tail off my entire life to have what I have. To see that my taxes are going to pay for somebody who quite honestly doesn’t want to work as hard as I do work their 40-hour week and have their housing provided for them.... I don’t like rewarding complacency that way where people think ‘I work 40 hours so I should be entitled to an apartment that costs $1,500 a month even though my job can only pay me $15 per hour.’ No, that’s not how it works.” Read more about this story at HudsonValley360.com.