Promise of new Hudson housing still short of meeting need

HUDSON–“The houses I’ve seen in Hudson are worse than anything I’ve seen in India!” said Brenda Adams of Habitat for Humanity. She was speaking at a Hudson Area Library community forum last week on housing in Hudson, an event that brought out a diversity of concerns and priorities.

The gathering also heard a representative of Galvan Housing Resources, a non-profit entity, announce that it plans to create up to 25 affordable housing units in the city by the year 2020.

“There are illegal apartments,” Ms. Adams said at the May 25 event. “In one apartment in a snowstorm, the roof caved in on a baby. The baby was covered with plaster dust.” Everybody survived, she said, but the cave-in “was simply covered with blue plastic.”

“Low and middle-income residents of Hudson, lifetime and new, are finding it harder and harder to locate housing,” said Affordable Housing Hudson’s flyer advertising the forum. “Our beautiful city is a target for up-marketing to consumer-based tourism… Rents in Hudson are skyrocketing; significantly fewer apartments are for lease.”

“This town is being groomed, and we’re not included in the circle,” said Reverend Edward Cross, Supervisor of Hudson’s 2nd Ward.

“We really have a decline in housing stock,” said Jason O’Toole of Galvan Housing Resources. The waiting list for affordable housing is huge. Over 600 people. A lot of people can afford only $200 a month or $100 a month.”

Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga (D, 2nd Ward), Democratic Party leader Michael Chameides and Rebecca Wolff organized the forum through Affordable Housing Hudson (AHH), a citizens’ action group. Ms. Garriga opened the forum by presenting four panelists: Peter Meyer, moderator; Anthony Laulette, executive director of Bliss Towers; Mr. O’Toole; and Ms. Adams. Each panel member spoke, and then the audience–which filled the meeting room–added to the discussion.

Mr. Laulette said Bliss Towers needs $8-to-$10-million for repairs and maintenance but receives less than $200,000 a year from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Still, he said, “Bliss Towers isn’t going anywhere. For public housing in the US, it’s middle aged.”

“When I came to Hudson, Bliss and Hudson Terrace were shining, and the rest of Hudson was deteriorating. Now it’s the reverse,” said Mr. Meyer.

“So much of Hudson’s affordable housing is contained in one area,” Mr. Laulette continued.

Mr. O’Toole announced, “We are committed to providing 20 to 25 new units of affordable housing in the next three years.”

He said the Galvan Foundation’s mission is “to enhance the quality of life of people and the community in Columbia County” and with that in mind the foundation “deliberately bought housing that needs renovation. We intend them for affordable housing. We bought them rather than let developers with different intentions buy them. We now have 186 affordable units. And we hope to inspire additional developers of affordable housing to come to Hudson.”

“Warehousing is driving up rent. Whole apartment buildings are taken off the market,” Mr. Meyer said.

Ms. Adams said, “I’m here to advocate for home ownership. We develop owner-occupied single family houses. We surveyed our clients and they said home ownership provides security from the world. We found two threats to home ownership—high property value and high energy heating cost.”

Suggesting advantages of new construction over rehabilitation, she added, “Hudson has one of the oldest and most diverse housing stocks. But it’s too expensive to rehabilitate them. Besides, everybody is cobbling together two or three jobs. They don’t have time.”

As for construction, Timothy Smith, a stone mason, said, “This town has fantastic youths. The kids can be trained to do great things on great buildings.” He praised Questar III BOCES training programs.

“Clearly private investment is not building enough affordable housing,” said a woman.

“When the wealthy move in, where will we go?” asked Rev. Cross.

“What will happen if people from New York City lose interest in Hudson?” asked Mr. Laulette. “We’ll still have low income people. I hope Hudson isn’t just a passing fantasy” on the part of economically better off downstaters.

“I’ve lived in Hudson 68 years,” said Rev. Cross. “At one time, my parents’ rent was $38. When I graduated from college in 1970, my rent was $100. Affordable housing relates to crime, drug abuse, and mental health. About 25 years ago, when I joined the Board of Supervisors, we had the same issues. We are still winding up with six or seven people in a two-bedroom house, we still have homeless shelters. A person needs a safe place to feel comfortable in. Whether owned or rented, a person needs a place where we can shut out the world.”

Cedric Fulton of the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center indicated interest in housing options on streets other than Warren.

“I’ve heard people talking in coffee houses about what house they will buy to run Airbnb,” said a woman, referring to the online accommodations service where travelers can rent rooms in private homes. “Some of these could instead be affordable little houses or apartments.”

AFF plans to hold another forum, this one concentrating on Airbnb.

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