More refugees settle in area with affordable housing shortage
Massarah Mikati reports in the Times Union that the Albany area is expecting 500 refugees this fiscal year, while an affordable housing crisis throughout the Hudson Valley means there are few options for them. “We had everybody looking for an apartment, and it just wasn’t there,” said Tim Doherty, executive director of the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center. “We don’t know how many (refugees) are going to come — where can we even house them?” Of the incoming residents, 100 come from Afghanistan. "The group is probably experiencing first-hand what low-income residents and communities of color in Albany have been experiencing for decades and has only worsened, which is a severe lack of affordable housing,” said Rebecca Garrard, legislative director and housing advocate with Citizen Action of New York. The Albany Housing Authority waitlist for public and Section 8 housing was around 10,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic, now it is at almost 13,400. A report recently showed Greene County with fewer houses and buildings than 10 years ago, thanks to decay, powerful global warming-fueled storms, and other factors. Short-term rentals are way up, fueled by the lack of hotel rooms, taking more rental properties off the market. And as the supply of housing shrinks, the demand has increased, especially since the pandemic. Under a capitalist system, when supply dwindles, and demand increases, prices go up. And the pandemic has made it all worse. “We know that a lot of (income) should be coming back to the landlords through (emergency rental assistance), but there’s a lack of patience,” Garrard said. “What we’ve seen is landlords increasing rents to recoup the losses they suffered during the pandemic.” And developers make more money on high-end housing than affordable units, and governments locally have not stepped in to build new spaces. And Albany typically gets about 100 refugees a year, so five times that many is problematic. “The (refugee resettlement) collaborative is having these big conversations and calling attention to the complicated historical and current factors that are truly contributing to this impossible situation,” Ali Schaeffing, a board member at the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center said. “We’re having these conversations, while also getting creative about housing solutions.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.