SWOT Recap: Housing

Posted: January 10, 2012 in Vision
Tags: , , ,

Thanks to everyone who submitted responses to the S.W.O.T. analysis thread. I’ve tried to look for some common ground among these posts, and I see a couple of areas where people’s comments overlap. One of the issues that came up in both the strengths and weaknesses category was our housing stock. I’ve always agreed with the idea that our neighborhoods are our most important asset, and it seems that most people do too. I also think that most would also agree that the average condition of our city’s homes is declining. I think the disagreements emerge when we start talking about what to do about it.

For a change of pace, I’ve decided to boil down some of the various strategies that I’ve picked up on through past blog discussions and put them into a  few polls. Feel free to comment on the various strategies and suggest new ones if you wish.

Here’s some stats on the housing situation in Amsterdam from the Comprehensive Plan. They are from 2000, but I think they can at least give us a little perspective on the situation.

Total residential parcels: 5,310
Single family residential parcels: 2,777
Multiple family residential parcels: 2,533
Total housing units: 9,277
Owner occupied housing units: 4,107
Renter occupied housing units: 3,876
Vacant: 1,294

Also,  a lot has written recently on the issue of buying a home vs renting a home. Here’s a good article (with good counter-points in the comments) which shows how home ownership rates and consumer sentiment toward home ownership have both been falling. I think it’s worth considering that even if the economy begins to improve, we may be seeing a cultural shift away from settling down permanently, and more toward remaining mobile. However, we’ve also discussed that owner occupied, single family homes are needed to stabilize our neighborhoods.  This new trend may have to be factored in as we discuss the best strategy for Amsterdam’s housing situation.

  1. xsubsquid says:

    I may blatantly and shamelessly steal this blog topic from you. 🙂

    Both of our cities share similar housing stock issues.

    I can attest from a purely subjective viewpoint about the increase in a mobility mindset.

    As middle income jobs disappear (at least from this region), people are left with a choice of staying in a location in which their extended families reside, but no jobs exist, or moving farther afield to follow the greenbacks and live comfortably, even if separated from the rest of the extended family.

    I have experienced this and find myself fortunate that I could live in Gloversville, where the core (but not all) of my family reside, and commute south of Albany to work. If the job I currently have were to go away, there are very limited possibilities for replacing its income within an hour of where I live. The need to feed and water my seed (Eminem) make it imperative that I go to the job, not wait around in a vain hope something will come up. I would be gone in 60 seconds because that’s the imperative in my life.

    For many, they share the same sort of imperative. Bills, lifestyle, children all must come before a desire to be two blocks away from grandma. Knowing this, they don’t want to be burdened with an expensive and permanent asset (like a house). They want the ability to put that two week notice in and, two weeks later, be on the road with a U-Haul to the next better thing.

    And the fact is, those who stay are progressively less able to afford to buy decent houses because the job climate is so poor. That’s why cities like Gloversville have houses that stay on the market for a very long time (not all, but quite a few).

    Then, to add insult to injury, the state idiotically sets aside taxpayer funds (monies ripped from these same homeowners) to put up subsidized worker-class housing (such as the unit slated to go up on the north end of Gloversville) further diluting the number of clients to the amount of available housing and rental stock which just weakens the market that much more and ensures even more homes will remain vacant and fall into disrepair.

    What a cycle!


  2. robert purtell says:

    I have taken a few days to digest the data and info in the discussion, I really do not buy into subsidizing repairs or upgrades. The financial component is a very hard program to deliver in a way that is what I would consider succesful. In my lifetime I have seen many programs used to “stabilize neighborhoods” they seem to be marginal at best.
    As I have said in the past, americas housing stock is aging, it is reasonable to say that everywhere in the country, exclusive of some well to do areas are experiencing the same pains as upstate NY.

    The answer is not always financial, in my humble opinoin, The best way to stabalize a neighborhod is through pride of ownership, one neighborhood at a time, increasing the quality of life.

    I really feel comfortable in saying that the quality of life here is increasing every day as are the attitudes of the people.

  3. I agree that ownership is key to maintaining pride in neighborhoods. Owner occupied homes are better maintained. Part of Amsterdam’s problem is rental housing and absentee landlords. Although legislation was put in place to try and control this {section 161-2 Public Nuisance Point System), it is not enforced. Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency has put most of their effort and resources into buildings housing businesses on Main Street and more rental properties. I received notice last year from Mayor Thane that AURA was moving to an owner occupied housing grant program, it never transpired.

    We seriously need more zoning enforcement to accomplish any of this. The City is severely lacking in that department. I don’t know if the problem lies with the citation or prosecution or a combination of both, but something needs to change in order to eradicate blighted areas and make Amsterdam a more desirable place to live.

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