CATSKILL — A proposal to supply $350,000 in funding for workforce housing in the Village of Tannersville cleared two major hurdles in a Greene County Legislature special meeting Monday.
The legislature’s County Services and Finance committees approved the plan to use money from the county’s pool of money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help assist in an application to provide housing for workers of the county’s ski resorts.
The proposal will now be up for a vote by the full Legislature at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 17.
“I’m happy that it passed,” Hunter Town Supervisor Sean Mahoney said after the meeting. “I think it’s a much-needed project, specifically on the mountaintop. I’m hoping that the legislature sees the value in investing in affordable workforce housing and passes it in the full legislature vote.”
The $350,000 from the county would be used by the Hunter Foundation and the nonprofit RUPCO organization to assist with planning and development costs as part of the proposed $20 million project that would deliver 80 units of affordable workforce housing to the mountaintop region.
Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said the lack of reasonably priced housing in the Hunter-Tannersville area has been an ongoing issue in the region and that if the county backs the project it would be a seal of approval for developers as they attempt to secure state and federal funding for the project.
“It’s important to assist in the application and it increases the score of a competitive grant,” Linger said after the meeting. “But I think the bottom line is that we need to understand that there’s a crisis in housing. Right now it’s prevalent on the mountaintop, but I think we’re going to see it everywhere. People haven’t paid rent for a year. I almost fear January when the rent relief ends and I expect it will. I hope it doesn’t create a bigger problem at that point.”
The Legislature’s County Services Committee approved the proposal by a 5-1 margin, with Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, the sole dissenting vote. Later in the session, the Finance Committee gave the green light to the resolution by a 4-2 vote, with legislators Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, and Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, in opposition.
Mahoney, who also serves as executive director of the Hunter Foundation, said the lack of housing for area workers has reached a crisis point.
“It’s certainly been years, but it became really pronounced during the pandemic,” he said. “I think there’s been limited housing and limited workforce for some time. Now with the way the housing market has exploded, specifically on the mountaintop in the Hunter and Windham area, there’s just no inventory for housing there. On the flip side, the good news is that businesses have the ability to grow. People are coming here, we’re a tourist area. We’re just having problems housing the workforce. Businesses here are having a problem attracting people to live here and work here. The major component that is missing is housing.”
As part of the proposal to build 80 units of one-to-three-bedroom housing in Tannersville, 20 homes would be sold to buyers who meet the predetermined income levels.
Legislator Patty Handel, R-Durham, asked that the developers ensure that none of the potential home buyers are allowed to purchase the homes and then flip them for a profit.
RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor said his company would commit to a deed restriction on the homes that would limit the dwellings to owner-occupied houses.
The organizers are in the midst of the application process, but if the grant funding is not secured this year, the Hunter group could submit another application in 2022.
“They have an application in right now,” Linger said. “It shows our local commitment because we’re competing against a lot of other places for the same money.”
At the board’s prior meeting on Nov. 8, O’Connor said the project could be shovel ready by June 2023, but if the project is approved, Mahoney said a solution will have to be found to house workers in the interim.
“There’s a variety of things and one of them is to make it more attractive for people to use unutilized space for long-term workforce housing,” Mahoney said. “That could potentially be done via a regulatory mechanic or through some sort of incentive for people. The other thing would be to attract private developers and show them the opportunity if they built some housing that’s available to people to rent on a long-term basis. But that’s challenging. Right now with the way that everything is so expensive, it’s hard for those projects to pencil in from a profitability perspective when it’s done privately.”
Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou made a passionate plea for the Legislature to approve the $350,000 in funding for the proposal.
“We have a major crisis in this country and we’re going to have a major crisis in this county unless we have the vision to move forward,” Markou told lawmakers. “We’re going to have a job crisis, housing crisis and a health crisis.”
Addressing concerns from the Legislature about the use of taxpayer money for the plan, Markou argued it would be a worthy investment.
“We can talk about taxpayer money, but look at this building and look at all of us here,” Markou said. “We all live on taxpayer money. Taxpayer money pays for everything we do. This is one of the first housing proposals I’ve seen in my 25 years in Greene County. If we don’t do something to at least support this application, it would be the biggest mistake of our lives.”