Affordable Housing Opportunities Strategy
This study was initiated as a result of considerable public inquiry about housing assistance programs. The study was funded by the Governor’s Office for Small Cities Program to develop strategies to meet the Queensbury affordable housing needs. As such, its primary purpose is as a tool to be used for grant applications in the search for funding.
There is additional value to performing a housing study. Some of the more interesting issues and conclusions are highlighted and summarized below.
Regional Population Growth and Employment
This study also comes at the forefront of a major anticipated regional impact. Queensbury is within the “first ring of influence” of the proposed Luther Forest Technology Park in Saratoga County, directly to the south. The creation of close to 10,000 expected new jobs will accelerate the demand for new housing in the region.
Affordable housing is a workforce issue. Housing that is affordable for the employees of local industry is an important component needed to both attract and retain a quality work force. Affordable housing is thus an integral aspect of the Town’s continuing economic development efforts.
The Warren County Economic Development corporation (WCEDC) promotes our local workforce as more productive and more highly educated than the national average. However, the local wage structure is less. The gap between incomes and housing costs is one of the highest in the State, according to a study done in 2002 by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation. Warren County comes in at #11 (#1 being the most expensive as compared to wages), with New York City, Long Island, and other New York City surrounding counties of Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam higher.
Population projections indicate that Queensbury will continue to grow, so that by 2010, another 4,000 persons, representing an additional 1,550 to 1,600 households can be expected. Based on Town building permit data, 766 new dwelling units have been constructed during the years 2000 through 2003. It is apparent that Queensbury continues to grow, and is growing at a fast pace.
Population and Housing Characteristics
Queensbury’s population is anticipated to grow so that the population will be between 29,318 and 29,468 persons by the year 2010, and these persons will be older than the area population. Examination of demographic data shows that Queensbury’s population is aging at a higher rate than that of the State and Warren County, and household sizes are decreasing. Since the year 2000, subsidized housing is being provided for seniors, and accounts for the majority of senior housing built or approved. Senior housing that has been built, or approved since the year 2000 constitutes almost half of all the multi-family housing built or approved during that time period in the Town.
A survey conducted for this study shows that other multi-family housing constructed or approved since 2000, provides affordable rentals to middle income households.
To date, more multi-family rental housing (for seniors as well as the general public) has been constructed or approved by the Town during the past three years than in the previous decade.
Single family, detached housing continues to be built, but at a slightly higher rate than that experienced during the 1990’s, from an average of 134 single family detached units built per year, to an average of 145 single family detached units built each year during the past 4 years. The cost of this housing has increased substantially as outlined below.
Real Estate Costs and Affordability
Analyses of real estate data and cost information submitted to obtain Town building permits shows that single family housing costs are increasing for existing single family housing as well as for new construction.
According to the Warren County Association of Realtors, the median sale price for single family homes sold from January through June 2003 was $149,800 for Queensbury. According to the New York State Association of Realtors, during the period of July 2001 to July 2003, the median sales price of an existing single family home in Warren County increased 36%, from $103,000 to $140,000. This increase is higher than that of Washington and Saratoga Counties during the same time period (28% and 29% respectively). Such costs are currently off set by the historic low interest rates experienced throughout the nation.
The cost of new construction for a single family home is also significantly higher. Town of Queensbury building permit data (self reported) shows that the cost of a new home (including land value) is $223,500.
Obviously the housing market is currently bearing these increases. But, will this housing market fulfill the need for current and predicted workforce housing needs?
After considering typical local costs for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, a household income of $88,000 is needed to afford a new home, and a household income of $57,484 would be needed to afford an existing sales priced home in Queensbury.
Using the 2003 annual median income for a 3 person household of $44,000 [information provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)] the maximum a house would need to sell for would be $109,200.
The pressures between household income and housing costs can be illustrated by comparing different industry sectors and their representative wages. Available New York State Department of Labor data (2002), for Warren County, shows that the highest average annual wage was $39,403 for those persons employed in professional employment sectors. Persons employed in services, make an average annual wage less than half of the $44,000 median.
Housing affordability is an issue, and anecdotal snapshots are portrayed in this study. There are also other indicators that demonstrate many households in Queensbury are “cost burdened” due to housing costs.
More than half of all rental households with incomes less than $35,000 pay more than 30% of their income on housing. It is difficult for households that are “cost burdened” to save funds to enable home purchase.
Likewise, it is also difficult for existing home owners to “move up” to more costly housing, thereby increasing the availability of more affordable housing. The majority of households in single family ownership have incomes of $35,000 or less. Slightly over half of all owner occupied households with incomes less than $35,000 spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING STRATEGIES
The following issues and opportunities have been identified for further consideration.
Support and Enhance Affordable Housing Within Existing Neighborhoods
Promote using the smaller, scattered vacant parcels available within built up areas in the Town for new, affordable housing. The number of large parcels suitable for more affordable housing development is limited. New housing for one or two family homes in existing neighborhoods can be accommodated using state or federal assistance. Local finance institutions have also expressed an interest in putting forth housing assistance, especially for owner-occupied duplexes.
Support and enhance available affordable housing in the Town as a way to maintain existing affordable neighborhoods. Existing modest neighborhoods in West Glens Falls and South Queensbury are most likely candidates for home improvement grants and/or deferred loans to households meeting grantor agency income guidelines.
Provide support to the Glens Falls Housing Authority to obtain rental housing vouchers, and the conversion of one-family to two-family homes in compatible areas. Re-zoning may be needed in some instances, and should be investigated. This approach is consistent with the inconspicuous nature of the “in-fill” housing.
Support the Expansion of Affordable Housing With New Construction
The strong demand for additional housing in Queensbury, along with the limited amount of land with municipal water and sewer for new residential development, has increased housing costs in the Town. Public actions can be taken to encourage inclusion of affordable rental and owner occupied housing. These actions could include:
Identification of sites appropriately zoned and currently served by sewer and water lines.
Identification of sites that would be suitable for more affordable housing if sewer and water lines were extended and/or areas were re-zoned residential.
Provision of appropriate negotiation tools in ordinances and regulations to reserve a percentage of housing in new developments for eligible households. PUD and cluster provisions, and density bonuses are examples. Affordable housing mandates are also a possibility.
Development of Town policies and support for federal and State tax credits, and programs/resources.
These suggestions are intended to initiate discussion and result in suitable actions. Already the Town Board has approved writing and submission of a variety of grant applications to address home improvement needs. Support has also been given to developers in their applications for tax credits to build affordable senior housing.
While the strategies put forth as follows are a result of data analysis and public input, we note that none of these have been adopted as a part of the Town of Queensbury Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). Additional consideration will be required before any housing section can be added to update the CLUP, or changes made to local ordinances.