Columbia County Habitat Study Shows Structural Barriers Restrain Affordable Homeownership in County
Columbia County Habitat advocates change in property tax assessment for affordable housing
Columbia County Habitat for Humanity (CCHFH) has published a study that details how current state and local tax policies work against efforts to promote affordable housing, and specifically harms efforts to promote homeownership among low to moderate-income families and communities of color.
Conducted for CCHFH by the regional research and planning group Pattern For Progress, “A Case for the Fair Taxation of Subsidized and Affordable Owner-Occupied Housing in New York State,” details the systemic challenges to addressing the housing crisis in New York State generally, and in Columbia County specifically.
Al Bellenchia, Executive Director and CEO of CCHFH said: “The housing study conducted earlier this year by Pattern for Progress for the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) showed that affordable housing has become a full-blown community/economic crisis in our county. Nearly half of the families making $60,000 per year or less are housing cost-burdened (spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs.) Our study sought to understand the components of the cost burden. We wanted to learn what reasonable adjustments to policy could be made to accelerate development of homeownership by those traditionally underserved by existing programs and systems.”
“Homes constructed by Habitat for Humanity provide many of our neighbors with their best shot at becoming a homeowner,” said Adam Bosch, CEO of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. “But New York’s policies on taxation and assessment can quickly chip away at the subsidies that make these homes affordable for first-time buyers. Our report outlines a number of solutions that can help to keep Habitat homes affordable for longer, and maintain the dream of homeownership for more people across the state. These are valuable goals that deserve the attention of our policymakers.”
Key highlights from the study include:
The study found that even at 80% of Columbia County’s Area Median Income (AMI), an affordability gap exists for residents seeking to purchase a modestly priced home ($250,000) in the county, very few of which currently exist.
Elka Gotfyrd, Director of Pattern For Progress’ Center for Housing Solutions said: “Our representatives in all levels of government have demonstrated their commitment to advance affordable housing. However, our research shows that New York State property tax policies work against efforts to increase homeownership access. First-time homebuyer rates are at all-time lows as housing prices are entirely out of reach for most New Yorkers. Luckily, there are concrete actions our legislators can pursue to support more equitable outcomes. Without significant legislative action, market trends coupled with regressive property taxation will continue to exacerbate the degree to which our economic playing field is far from level.”
Bellenchia added: “If low and moderate-income families - the people who work our farms, serve our coffee, draw our blood, maintain our streets, staff our offices - cannot find or afford housing in our communities, they will seek out other places where they can affordably work and raise their children. We are seeing this unfold in real time across our county as more and more employers cannot find local workers that can find local housing they can afford.”
The report lays out several ways that policy can be changed:
“Many of our communities are taking action to promote the development of more affordable housing. We hope that our study provides more data and insight into how sensible policy reforms can make the creation of new housing a reality in these communities,” Bellenchia said.
The full report is available for download HERE.
Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023, specializes in building safe, decent, and affordable housing for working families throughout the county. CCHFH has built or rehabilitated 25 homes across Columbia County in Ancramdale, Chatham, Copake, Hudson, New Lebanon and Valatie.
In Spring 2022, Habitat launched Habitat Helping Hands, an award-winning homeowner support and services program designed to offer minor home maintenance and repair assistance, and training and education programs for seniors and low-income homeowners. CCHFH also operates the Hudson ReStore, which offers new and used donated home goods at deeply discounted prices.
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