Placid won’t repeal income-based housing provision

Brainstorm affordable housing ideas

Members of the village Lake Placid Board of Trustees and the North Elba Town Council discuss amendments to the village and town’s joint land-use code at Thursday’s special meeting at the North Elba Town Hall. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — The village Board of Trustees and the North Elba Town Council will not repeal the village and town’s income-based housing provision, though it seems the discussion about creating affordable housing is just beginning.

The proposal was one of 13 amendments to local laws that the village board and town council discussed at a special joint meeting at the town hall Thursday.

The current law’s objective is to give incentive to developers to include housing for people with low and moderate incomes. It does this by requiring developers to include at least one income-based unit for every 10 dwelling units, such as a home, townhouse or condominium. The income-based units are for people whose gross annual household income does not exceed 120 percent of the Essex County median income.

Developers are also permitted to make a payment to housing nonprofits such as the Affordable Community Housing Trust, in lieu of creating income-based housing units. The law went into effect in January 2011 and has only affected two developments since its passing. That’s one of its weaknesses, according to Tim Smith, the attorney for the town and village’s joint review board. Smith said a majority of the planning board did not support the proposal. The planning board’s Chairman, Bill Hurley, had already expressed his disapproval of the proposal at the town council’s April meeting.

The totality of the town council in attendance — Town Supervisor Roby Politi and Councilmen Jay Rand, Derek Doty, Jack Favro and Bob Miller — supported moving forward with the amendment and holding a public hearing in mid-June to hear public opinion. Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall was also in favor of moving the matter to a public hearing.

Village Trustees Peter Holderied, Jason Leon and Scott Monroe were not in favor of advancing the proposal, resulting in its dismissal. Lake Placid Deputy Mayor Art Devlin was absent.

Conversation then shifted to how to provide more affordable housing during a time when many village workers don’t have the finances to purchase a home. Also discussed was the continuing trend of many landowners opting to use their properties as short-term vacation rentals in order to reap a more plentiful financial windfall.

“The benefit of this is focused on home buyers,” Randall said of the low-income provision. “Where we have a real shortage in our community is affordable rent units that are reasonably decent. We have apartments — I can’t find any grant fund or anything (such as) community block funds to help a landlord improve a rental property here in Lake Placid. We can get money for single family dwellings pretty readily, but when it comes to try to take care of a building that needs a roof or could use a more efficient heating system that would keep the rents better, (it’s) almost impossible to find. And, believe me, if we could do it, we’d do it.

“Because I think home buying, just like in Switzerland,” the Mayor continued, “if your family didn’t own a home, you don’t buy a home. Because (home ownership is) out there beyond the (financial) reach of a working class family. So looking at it that way, if we can agree to create a system where we can provide housing — forget the words single-family — it’s housing. It’s whatever we need.”

Politi said he had wanted to see the law modified because he felt it was too small in scope.

“My argument always was just, it’s so narrow, you are only looking at one or two people,” he said. “And if the purpose is to try to generate revenue or a pot of money, maybe it needs to be expanded? Maybe it needs to be modified? Maybe it needs to be changed?”

During Thursday’s discussion, Randall also said the evolution on Main Street into a downtown with many food vendors and more employees is causing not only a problem with traffic and parking, but affordable housing.

“The reality is, we are bringing however many new people they hire,” Randall said. “They are all coming into the village, some of them are trying to stay here. And the question really is: What is driving the need, and is there a better way to address it?

“Whether this stays in the land code or not is less important than whether there is really any reality that we can develop any program here that’s going to work,” the mayor continued. “Or, maybe I have to eat crow with (Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO) Mr. (Jim) McKenna and let some housing get built in Wilmington.”

Politi went on to applaud the Lussi family and the Holderied family for purchasing property to provide affordable housing to their employees. Village Trustee Peter Holderied, who owns the Golden Arrow Resort, last year purchased the Mountain View Inn across Main Street to provide employee housing. At Thursday’s meeting, Holderied said he was surprised when people in the community recommended he lease out some of his 29 Main St. apartments as vacation rentals after they were damaged in the Fortunes of Times fire of the summer of 2015.

“I’m like, ‘Where are the locals going to live?'” he said.

“I can predict,” Randall added, “that some enterprising individual is going to continue right on down the street and the lower rent apartment buildings that we’ve all grown up with are going to disappear from the street.”

“I predict in 10 years,” he continued, “there’s not going to be any of those (working class residents) using the sites that we traditionally think of. I think it’s going to happen that quick.”

Doty brought up the idea of creating a housing authority. Randall raised the idea of using resources to locate and assist an affordable housing project.

“But we really need a force in the community working on it” he said. “It’s like looking back in the days the Greenwood (apartment complex) was built, and the work that went into the community in getting that. And it was a lot of community input. So I’m thinking about that and just living in Lake Placid in general, because we are not going to grow any more land here.”

“You could have a pilot program,” Politi replied, “which we have never agreed to, solely for people who create affordable housing. So, in other words, no taxes or tax 50-percent — either go down or go up to encourage people. But that’s the only way you can get a pilot, not because you are bringing some business into town. That would be a way to have people want to buy buildings and whatever to create that type of dedicated use for that program. Never been done.”