Friday, 17 March 2017 14:07

Time to Collaborate to Build Workforce Housing

By Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce | Business

It is about time!

We’re pleased that our community is finally engaged in a discussion about how we can create more workforce housing within the City of Saratoga Springs.

We need it to sustain our City’s vibrancy. 

Employers need it to attract and retain good workers. 

Workers need it because our City’s popularity as a great destination to live and work has increased considerably. 

With demand on the rise, housing prices and lease rates for rentals have gone up. This makes it difficult for local workers to be able to afford to live in the City. It is estimated that we may need up to 220 new workforce housing units in the City to meet the demand.

Here’s how we can actually build such housing within the City specifically:

1. Immediately identify specific properties in the City that are appropriate for mixed-use housing which have the capacity to incorporate workforce housing.

2. Figure out specifically what it will really take to entice or allow developers to build such housing on these sites and make it happen.

This plan is based on the fact that every property is different. 

‘No one-size-fits-all plan will work.’

Every neighborhood’s uniqueness must be respected. 

In the past, local efforts to build workforce housing have sometimes met with neighborhood opposition. 

A site-specific plan will allow neighbors to be involved up front.

Each property will pose different challenges and costs. 

A site-specific approach will allow the City, property owners, advocates, developers and neighbors to look at what can be done to make such projects cost neutral. 

In some cases, a more efficient and less costly approval process will help. In others, the City may need to waive some of the development fees. There may also be times when we will need to tap into federal and state grant funds to make this work.

A site-specific approach can and should prioritize properties that are on bus lines, near schools, hospitals and the places where people will have the option to walk or bike to work. 

We’d like to offer three specific ideas.

First, there is a developer seeking approval and funding for a 160 unit workforce housing project on West Ave. 

Second, we believe the City should look at the South Broadway diner property for such a project. 

Third, let’s explore what can be done with land owned by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. 

A focused effort on these specific parcels alone has the potential to create more new workforce housing units than estimates suggest we need.

We believe such an effort can result in new units being built far faster than any other option being discussed.

Perhaps there are other specific sites in addition to these within the City we should consider.

Like everything else, the solution lies in having a conversation, listening to one another and working together.

 

We are confident that this site-specific approach will actually lead to the construction of new workforce housing. It is a common sense approach we hope the City will embrace.

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