Affordable Housing Proposal Being Brought to City Hall

Housing_c16LawrenceWhiteJefferson Street on the southeast end of Saratoga Springs has long been a diverse neighborhood, home to the first public houses development, the Jefferson Terrace. The street stretches from the "Five Points" star at Lincoln Avenue to Crescent Avenue and Saratoga Casino Hotel. This street boasts small family cottages from the 1940s and 50s, the extension of public housing at Vanderbilt Terrace, new upscale townhouses at East Fenlon Street, the Mount Olivet Baptist Church, a long stretch of newly-constructed upscale housing, two apartment complexes, Pennell's Restaurant, one of the city's trailer parks, and the city's only functioning feed barn. Photo by Lawrence White. One of many new housing developments in Saratoga Springs, 2 West. Photo by Lawrence White.

A proposal for discussion which would require new development projects in all districts across Saratoga Springs to include a proportion of housing units affordable by residents with lower to middle incomes is being brought to the City Council next week, Sustainable Saratoga Chairman Harry Moran announced Thursday.

The group says that while more than 20 local agencies provide housing opportunities for low-income households and special needs populations, not nearly as much is being done for middle income groups. HUD defines “affordable housing” as housing for which occupants pay no more than 30 percent of their income for gross housing costs, including utilities.

One-third of residents in the city of Saratoga Springs are paying a higher percentage amount – about 24 percent homeowners, and 44 percent renters – according to the most recent data. The proposed SPA (Saratoga Places for All) Housing Ordinance would be applicable to current city residents.

The group is recommending the city revisit a 2006 inclusionary zoning draft created after a year of committee work and 30 meetings, but which never made it to the Council table for a vote. It is estimated the adoption of such an ordinance – which Moran says could potentially be voted on before the end of the calendar year - would result in the construction of 20 to 30 new units of affordable housing annually.

“We think our community is ready and now is the time,” Moran said. We know it won’t solve all the housing issues, but it’s one key part of a comprehensive approach.”

The area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County is $82,000, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and it is unclear at this point, what the income limit requirements would be should the ordinance be locally adopted. HUD estimates, for example, defines its “low-income” provisions as 80 percent of the median family income for the area (this would be $65,000 earned income for a family of four in Saratoga);  “very low-income” at 50 percent of AMI ($41,000), and “extremely low income” at 30 percent of AMI – or $24,600.

A study is being conducted by GAR Associates, of Amherst, NY, anticipated to be completed in late September, and which will provide updated data regarding the proposal. More than 400 communities in 17 states currently have some kind of Inclusionary Zoning in place. The ordinance applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing.  Developers would receive a density bonus, or a right to build additional units on the same site, to offset costs incurred by providing affordable units.

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