Beacon Sells Land for New Affordable Housing

The wooded area on the far side of the Beacon City Hall will be sold by the city to be developed (Google Maps)

Developer plans 75 units next to City Hall

By Jeff Simms

Beacon officials have agreed to sell a vacant, city-owned lot next to City Hall to a developer who will construct affordable housing.

The City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 3 to sell the 3.14-acre lot to Kenneth Kearney, a Carmel-based developer who is building affordable housing in Peekskill and Poughkeepsie. Kearney will buy the lot on Wolcott Avenue for $1.2 million, or $100,000 less than its appraised value.

“The mindset here is to create housing for people that, due to rent burdens, are being pushed out of Beacon,” said Kearney, who has committed to keeping the units affordable for the next 50 years.

The largely wooded lot was obtained by the city through an urban renewal program more than 25 years ago.

The council has wrestled with the issue of affordable housing this year as hundreds of new apartments and condominiums are popping up around the city, many with six-figure price tags.

The wooded area on the far side of the Beacon City Hall will be sold by the city to be developed (Google Maps)

The wooded area on the far side of the Beacon City Hall will be sold by the city to be developed (Google Maps)

“There’s no better opportunity than this opportunity to do this and keep it affordable for people who want to stay in the city of Beacon,” Mayor Randy Casale said, noting the city’s comprehensive plan recommends increasing residential density near the Main Street retail district. “This is a half-block from Main Street,” he said, and also a block from the Metro-North train station.

City planners are drafting legislation that is likely to increase the number of affordable units that must be included as part of new developments. Those units would be classified as “workforce” housing, which gives priority to families that include emergency responders, municipal and school system employees and current and former members of the military.

The city, however, has gotten pushback from developers who would like projects already underway grandfathered to the affordable housing standards in place at the time of their Planning Board approval and not to any revisions the City Council may adopt.

Kearney plans to build about 50 artist loft spaces and 25 middle-income units. As with workforce housing, the rents will be tied to the area’s median income, which Dutchess County says is $87,100 annually for a family of four. The lofts would be priced for renters earning between 50 and 70 percent of the median income and the middle-income units for those making between 70 and 130 percent, Kearney said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as that which requires a household to pay less than 30 percent of its gross income on housing costs, which include rent and utilities or a mortgage payment, utilities, insurance and taxes. Therefore, households earning within those ranges would be able to rent Kearney’s units at a cost not exceeding 30 percent of their income.

Casale said on Oct. 3 that he expects to discuss with the council how the city will use the $1.2 million from the sale. Infrastructure improvements might be first on the list of priorities, he said.

Once the sale is finalized, Kearney said he will seek funding from the state’s Middle Income Housing Program, an initiative expected to offer $70 million to affordable housing developments during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Kearney said that his Peekskill and Poughkeepsie projects were two of the first funded by the highly competitive program, “so we’re looking to emulate our success there on this site” in Beacon.

The project will need approval from the Beacon Planning Board. The council’s resolution only authorized the sale of the land.

When asked how a developer makes money building affordable, rather than market-rate, housing, Kearney said it isn’t for everybody. “There are limited profit streams, but we’ve been able to stay busy for the last 12 years,” he said. He said he is filling a “niche within a niche,” adding that he built housing on East Main Street in 1989 and has long been interested in returning to the city to construct more.

4 thoughts on “Beacon Sells Land for New Affordable Housing

  1. If I’ve done my math right, the artist lofts will be about $1,306 a month, and the middle-income units would be about $2,177 a month. I wish that “affordable” housing were actually affordable for *Beacon*, which has much lower average incomes than Dutchess County as a whole.

  2. The $87,100 figure that’s noted in the story is the median income figure for a family of four (stated in the article). The median income for a couple or a single individual would be less, so rents will vary, depending on who the applicant is.

  3. I can see the future: overcrowded schools, no place to park, not enough fresh water. Good schools are the most important thing for a great community and that’s not going to happen if they are overcrowded! Beacon does not have the infrastructure for all these people. I thought the old Beacon High School was sold for affordable lofts. We elected too many council people with short-term thinking. I think it’s time for a change. Fifty-five years is not a long time at all.