Leaders in Saratoga Springs have made their pitch for three workforce housing proposals that aim to provide more apartments in a city desperate for workers and satisfy federal requirements for affordable housing.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the city’s Housing Task Force have been working for the past three years to find ways to make the Spa City a less expensive place to move to.
Yepsen, a second-term Democrat, said the city’s “relatively free market process” has worked to make the city a desirable place to live in recent years.
“But it’s not working so well to help our local businesses bring employees and a workforce to Saratoga Springs,” said Yepsen.
The city is trying to find new ways and new places to build affordable homes and apartments to satisfy requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
One approach that has gotten a cool reception from developers is called “inclusionary zoning” or IZ. IZ would require new developments to set aside a percentage of units to low- and moderate-income families.
But the Housing Task Force is taking a different approach by pushing three separate workforce housing developments around the city, totaling more than 380 units.
Task force member and Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said according to a housing study undertaken by the city, about 190 units of workforce housing are needed.
Shimkus said the approach would provide about twice as many apartments as needed.
“The site-specific approach we think is the best way because those sites are developable. You have developers that actually want to partner with the city to get a shovel in the ground, to get those units up, and actually unlock them for people,” said Shimkus.
Three proposed sites are new developments on West Avenue and South Broadway, and an expansion of the Saratoga Housing Authority’s Stonequist Apartments. Units will be made available for households that make between 40 to 100 or 50 to 80 percent of the median household income in Saratoga Springs, which is above the national and state average, according to Task Force chair Cheryl Hage-Perez.
“Depends on who you talk to is between $72 and $84,000 a year,” said Hage-Perez.
She said a two-year market study by the task force found that the need for current Saratogians is pressing.
“So it’s not like we’re bringing in people from out of the area for these units. The need is here, now. And we hope to address it,” said Hage-Perez.
Ryan Van Amburgh with Saratoga Economic Development Corporation said in addition to attracting new business, his organization also aims to help businesses attract workers.
“One of the crucial and critical points of that is workforce and having a vibrant community that is attractive and affordable to quality workforce housing is key,” said Van Amburgh.
Jobs like: hospital workers, hotel workers, teachers, firefighters and the like.
SEDC hopes to work with the city to attract state funding to help developers make the projects a reality.
A timeline for the projects has not been announced, but Yepsen says now is the time for the city to come together on a solution.
“And if we don’t do something soon we are going to be waking up in 10 years with an older, aging, wealthy population in the city. And that, as we know, is not helping our local economy,” said Yepsen.
For more stories on affordable housing in Saratoga Springs visit WAMC.org.