By Tim Rowland
To help deal with an estimated 7,500 housing units needed in much of the greater Adirondack region, multiple agencies, municipalities, nonprofits and even private homeowners themselves are working on it:
Above: watch a tour of a house getting rehabbed through the Essex County Land Bank.
- Essex and Franklin counties have created land banks, and one is in the works in Clinton County. Land banks fix up dilapidated homes acquired through nonpayment of taxes and sell them to people of limited means, using the proceeds to tackle the next project in the pipeline.
- Local governments are also becoming directly involved in housing projects, using pools of funding from grants or land sales to develop small communities of workforce housing, like this example in Hamilton County and this one in Wilmington. These projects are small, but potentially impactful in concert with other solutions.
- Nonprofits such as the Adirondack Foundation, Northern Forest Center, Adirondack North Country Association and Homestead Development Corp. of Lake Placid are assisting with affordable housing projects that range from small apartment buildings to modest developments to cooperative communities set up by homebuyers themselves. These developments are generally larger than municipal projects, and are funded with a combination of grants, gifts and lines of credit from local banks.
- Large apartment buildings with 50 or more units, made possible through grants and tax credits, are being erected. An affordable-housing apartment building has been completed in Lake Placid; others are envisioned for Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Ticonderoga.
- Communities are regulating short-term rentals, which are eating into long-term residential housing stock. While STRs are an important part of a tourism-based economy, some municipalities and housing advocates seek to limit or tax them.
- Auxiliary Dwelling Units, sometimes known as “granny flats,” are small self-contained living quarters attached to a residence or outbuilding. ADUs could be used for adult children or parents who give up their own homes.
- Home-sharing is gaining traction. For reduced rent, young tenants mow grass, shovel snow, perform maintenance and other chores, allowing the homeowner to age in place.
- LivingADK in Old Forge is exploring deed covenants that prohibit private homes from transitioning to STRs. While voluntary, communities in the West have paid homeowners to add such a rider to deeds.
- Employers, from Fort Ticonderoga to Adirondack Health, are providing housing assistance to employees, either through company-owned units or by helping match prospective employees with home-shares or other creative housing solutions.
- Advocates are pressing for policy changes like hamlet expansion to open more territory for less-restricted development. Expansion would trigger the need for public sewer and water lines, so planners want to see a change in grant policies.
- Taxing STRs or vacation properties with the revenue targeted for workforce housing projects. Also, economic-development officials want to see a streamlining in the paperwork that currently makes existing housing grants impractical for small contractors.
- Homeowners themselves are making a difference by selling at a discount to well-rooted members of the community or asking for deed riders that would make their homes available as long-term residences in perpetuity.