With New Data, Saratogians Begin Discussion On Affordable Housing

Dec 14, 2016

It’s no surprise to anyone living in the Capital Region that booming Saratoga Springs is becoming a more expensive place to live. But some numbers on the market given during a special City Council meeting on affordable housing today drew some gasps from the crowd.

It was standing room only in the middle of a weekday afternoon inside Saratoga Springs City Hall. The crowd had gathered to discuss the diminishing affordable housing stock in the Spa City.

One of the items presented was a more than 200-page Housing Needs Analysis/Market Study. Detailed in the study, the average list price for a single family home was $504,000 last year. Median income within the city hovers around $70,000.

Paul Feldman, who serves as vice chair of the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force, and also works as Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, said some of the numbers caught him off guard.

“People in lower incomes, if they want to live here, they have to spend half the money they’re making so I don’t know how they’re getting by. And it just reemphasizes the point that there has to become a way up here to create housing where middle income folks can afford to live without paying half of their income every month for rent,” said Feldman.

Details were given on the available housing stock, the condition of units, and what is needed. The task force is developing ways to comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city’s needs.

Cheryl Hage-Perez, who chairs the task force, also serves as Executive Director of Saratoga County Rural Preservation and VET HELP, which helps veterans find housing.

Hage-Perez said one major issue preventing Saratoga Springs from building more affordable housing stock and single-bedroom units, which are among the most requested, is NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – identified as a top issue in the city.

“You have developers who are ready to produce the product. And then you get ‘Not in my backyard’ for this reason or that reason,” said Hage-Perez.

Hage-Perez’s mention of NIMBY drew applause from one well-known face in the room, developer Sonny Bonacio.

“That was one of the best statements made in two hours, was that, if everybody wants this then everybody’s gotta get behind it,” said Bonacio.

The workshop on Wednesday only scratched the surface of the dialogue that is to come. Mayor Joanne Yepsen said, with data now in hand, solutions can now be worked toward.

“What we want to do as a council is to get to some real solutions to real problems. But we have to identify what gaps are the real problems,” said Yepsen.

Discussion will continue at next week’s regularly scheduled city council meeting.

This post will be updated.