The Marbletown Town Board meeting was held in person Tuesday, May 17, at the Rondout Municipal Center, 1925 Lucas Turnpike, Cottekill, and streamed on Facebook Live. Board members present in person included Rich Parete, chairman and town supervisor, along with Don LaFera, Tim Hunt, Daisy Foote and Ken Davenport.
Three members of the Marbletown Housing Committee presented its initial research and actionable road map to the Town Board. The Housing Committee was established in late 2021 to examine, research and present options and solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Marbletown. Vincent Martello, Marian Martinez and Bob Capelletti joined via Zoom for the presentation.
“The issue of affordable housing is a complex issue, it has a lot of components and moving parts. We’re framing it in a way that breaks it down into manageable components that we can wrap our minds around,” said Martello.
“Our goal is to make sure that we’re providing short- and long-term recommendations to address the complex needs. The idea is that it will serve everyone in the town, for both rental and home ownership. We’re looking at the whole picture and what’s best for the community,” said Martinez.
Some of the plans may include zoning changes that allow for more variety and flexibility for housing, multiple funding options, hiring a planner to develop a zoning plan that also incorporates conservation, regulations for short-term rentals, and clear criteria for stand-alone building projects.
The committee is working to refine a website and will begin to engage the public in the coming months.
The committee outlined several needs that require attention in Marbletown. The first is general affordability of housing, with the goal that residents don’t spend more than 30% of their median income on housing. In Marbletown, there is also a need for senior housing. The homes in the area are also old – over 60% of homes in Ulster County were built before 1970. With most homes in need of maintenance and renovations every 25-50 years, residents on fixed incomes cannot afford to make these upgrades. There is also not enough housing being built to meet demand, which includes both affordable and market-rate homes. And lastly, there is limited housing variety in the area, as most homes are single-family.
“There’s no one tool that is going to solve this problem – there are many tools that will need to be deployed – ranging from flexibility in housing types, incentives, zoning, funding mechanisms, tweaking our existing law with respect to affordability,” said Martello.
Currently, Marbletown law states that if 19 or more lots or units are built, at least 10% of the units have to be designated as affordable. “That means that if tomorrow morning a developer comes in and wants to do 18 units, none of them have to be affordable. That 10%, in my opinion, is unacceptably low, given the current housing crisis,” said Martello.
The current law uses a formula to calculate affordability. To be eligible to purchase or rent an affordable unit, the household’s aggregate annual income must be between 80% and 120% of the Ulster County median family income. In 2019, the Ulster County median household income was $64,304, and the Marbletown median household income was $74,357. In 2021, the median rent for a two-bedroom home in Ulster County was $1,600. The median income required to afford median rent in 2021 was $64,000. In 2021, the median home purchase price in Ulster County was $349,900, while Marbletown’s was $460,000. The median income required to afford that median purchase price was $107,100 in Ulster County and $141,000 in Marbletown. “The takeaway is that puts homeownership completely out of reach for median income households, currently,” said Martinez.
The Marbletown Housing Committee is researching populations to hone in on who needs affordable housing the most, which includes seniors, students, single-income families and workforce. They’re also researching how many units and percentage of growth the town can absorb. In Marbletown, residents aged 65-84 are the fastest growing population. The challenges seniors face includes finding downsized options and facing higher taxes and maintenance costs on their properties, which fixed incomes don’t cover.
In 2021, Martello noted that there were zero available rental units on MLS in Marbletown.
Martinez presented the lack of housing type options in Marbletown, such as duplexes, fourplexes, courtyard buildings, townhomes and larger multiplexes. More housing options would come in at different price points, benefiting the larger population.
“Our zoning laws are the biggest hurdle to allowing different housing options,” said Parete. “The accessory dwelling law was a good first step, but we need to more to allow multi-family, duplex and triplexes. We need an affordable housing requirement for subdivisions. Other than our health, having a safe and affordable place to live is the most important thing in our lives. Affordable is a different number for everyone.
“Senator Hinchey understands the magnitude of the housing crisis. The state can help by allowing a transfer tax that allows municipalities to invest in sustainable housing,” said Parete.
The board and the committee agreed to start to build upon findings and continue to provide recommendations that can be implemented easily, allowing the board to take incremental action.
“The work you’re doing for us, in really summarizing what we know already and what we need to know, is very helpful,” said councilman Hunt. “Maybe someone’s even going to have a development proposal that we aren’t anticipating, and we have to make decisions about that, and the more armed we are, the data you’re providing us, that will help us. The low-hanging fruit is certainly zoning, and we know we have a lot of revision to do to the zoning. Also, preservation is looking at it, and other planners are looking at our zoning. The other piece is, because you work with the county as well, the more we’re aware of what’s going on for county planning and how we can tap into that, we should be ready for that as well.”
“I would start looking at these zoning changes and what we can start doing as a board right now,” said Foote.
“The way to get to affordable housing is incremental steps that allows more people to be involved. So if I’m a homeowner, I can build an ADU [accessory dwelling unit], or maybe I can subdivide my house into a duplex. It has to be a plan for everyone, so that is the goal,” said Martinez.
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