Vote expected later this month
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council is expected to vote on Aug. 15 on the first in a series of changes designed to create more affordable housing in the city.
The proposal — which would make households earning 65 percent or less of the area’s median income (AMI) eligible for reduced-cost “workforce” housing — was the subject of a public hearing during the Council’s Aug. 1 meeting. The AMI is around $58,900, so households earning about $38,000 annually or less would meet the eligibility requirement.
The public hearing will continue at the Aug. 15 Council meeting, after which Beacon Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said he expects council members to vote on the change.
Lowering the income threshold is part of a complex formula that would make an increased number of households eligible for workforce housing — units within new developments that are made available at lower than market-value costs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines unaffordable housing as that which requires a household to pay more than 30 percent of its gross income on housing costs, which include rent and utilities or a mortgage payment, utilities, insurance and taxes.
Therefore, the city’s proposal states that eligible households earning 65 percent or less of the AMI would be able to rent or purchase workforce units at a cost not to exceed 30 percent of their income. Including utilities, that works out to housing costs of just over $1,000 per month.
The second change to be voted on this month would set a priority list — giving households that include emergency responders, municipal and school system employees, and current and former members of the military first crack at workforce housing.
During the public hearing on Monday, representatives of the local development community objected to the proposed changes, saying they’re unfair to builders who have sought financing based on an anticipated return — one that could be compromised if they’re forced to create more below market-rate housing.
“Ultimately these developers get financing and represent to their lenders what it is that they’re proposing,” said Taylor Palmer, who spoke on behalf of the developments Beacon 248 and The Lofts at Beacon. “With these changes it does reflect differently than [what developers have] represented to their lenders and it does have some impact.”
Palmer asked that the city first allow approved developments to proceed based on the affordable housing laws that were in place at the time of their approval and, second, to consider other methods, such as density bonuses, to reduce the “unfair” burden of added below market-rate units on local developers.
Rodney Weber, also a Beacon developer, seconded Palmer by asking that the city consider “grandfathering in” housing proposals that have already been approved.
“Having these rules and regulations in place is how we set our budgets,” he said. “[A change] could definitely affect our bottom line.”
Weber also suggested that developers could set a temporary, one-year price for units currently ready to be filled — to give the council “a little bit more time” to deliberate its workforce housing laws.
Another speaker, Fishkill resident Ozzy Albra, cautioned the council that affordable housing units built along the Route 9D corridor in Fishkill have sat empty, as “developers could not sell them.” Affordable units in the town were meant for police, teachers and others, in a way similar to what Beacon is considering.
“That’s not what happened,” he said. “Abject failure. Be very careful.”
“Having these rules and regulations in place is how we set our budgets. [A change] could definitely affect our bottom line.”