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Lake Placid housing study results will be unveiled Jan. 22

Residents placed sticky notes with comments on Lake Placid’s housing challenges during an informal meeting at the Conference Center in November 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — The results are in, but they haven’t yet been revealed.

The findings of a housing study commissioned by the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Commission’s Joint Community Housing Committee, or JCHC, will be unveiled at two meetings on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

The results come as the community grapples with the effects of an affordable housing crunch. As home prices continue to rise and more apartments are converted into tourist accommodations, it has gotten more difficult for both locals and would-be residents to find housing here. Some business owners have pointed to the lack of affordable housing as a hurdle to hiring staff, and school officials blame the cost of housing for a continuous decline in school enrollment.

The study was commissioned to assess Lake Placid’s existing affordable housing stock, identify gaps in the market and look for ways to improve the availability of affordable and workforce housing. It was later expanded to examine the impact of short-term vacation rentals on the housing market.

In a press release Monday, the JCHC said the study results include information on “identified critical community housing issues, the estimated additional housing needed in the community, and recommendations for addressing those issues and needs.”

Emily Politi, chair of the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Commission’s Joint Community Housing Committee, speaks at a JCHC meeting in November 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

“The (Joint Community Housing Needs Assessment) is an important step in quantifying changes that have taken place in the population and housing stock and formulating strategies to address unmet needs in the community,” JCHC Chair Emily Politi said in a statement.

The first meeting on the results is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 22 at the North Elba Town Hall, in the first-floor meeting room. In a joint session, the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees and the North Elba Town Council are expected to receive and review the results of the study, according to a legal notice from both municipalities. The village board and town council will also continue their ongoing discussion regarding replacing the sidewalk that circles Mirror Lake.

The next meeting, a larger community gathering, is slated for 6 p.m. in the auditorium at the Lake Placid Middle-High School. At this meeting, the JCHC and Camoin 310, a Saratoga Springs-based consulting firm that helped conduct the study, will present the study’s findings. Members of both organizations will be available after the presentation to answer questions.

Study will be foundation

There was a packed house at the Conference Center in August 2019 when the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid hosted a public hearing on proposed short-term rental regulations. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

The JCHC commissioned this housing study late last year. Camoin 310 was given three months to help put it together. Throughout the course of the study, JCHC and Camoin culled input from both the community and local stakeholders in public and private meetings. A public meeting to gather feedback from residents was held at the Olympic Center on Nov. 19, 2019. A 28-question online survey, with a deadline of Jan. 2, was later published to gather more input.

The results from the public meeting and the survey will be unveiled at the 6 p.m. meeting at the school, according to the JCHC.

Politi has said the study will serve as a foundation upon which solutions to the area’s housing shortage can be built.

“You need this data to write grants,” she said at a JCHC meeting in November. “There’s going to have to be public-private partnerships. If you can identify these gaps, if you can identify that there’s this strong market for people who are trying to rent homes at $800 per month, and it’s one bedroom — with all of those things, we can hopefully entice a private developer.

“We’re not just doing this to do it,” she added. “The goal is to have some end results that matter, so we have data that directs our policy but also brings other people in, brings grants in and brings private developers in.”

Preliminary findings

At the JCHC’s public meeting in November, Camoin 310 Project Manager Daniel Stevens gave a short preview of the study’s preliminary findings.

In his presentation, Stevens outlined data that supported what many residents already knew: The year-round population, as well as enrollment at Lake Placid Central schools, has continued to decline for years.

The percentage of Lake Placid’s housing stock that is used seasonally or recreationally — 1,630 units, or 34% — nearly matches the 35% of homes, or 1,701 units, that are owner-occupied. Just 7% of the local housing stock is vacant, and 24% is occupied by long-term renters. The number of short-term rentals in the Lake Placid area has increased by 177% since November 2016.

Lake Placid’s demographics skew younger — 67% of its population is below the age of 54 — and the median household income is $54,200 per year. That’s a bit less than the median income of Essex County as a whole, which was $55,294 as of 2017, according to U.S. Census data. Franklin County has a median income of $50,733.

One new statistic, in particular, seemed to encapsulate many residents’ concerns with the current state of the local housing market: The average family making $54,200 per year would need to make an additional $16,400 to be able to afford a median-priced home in the town of North Elba.

Physical copies of the housing study are expected to be available for viewing at the North Elba Town Hall, according to JCHC. A digital version was posted on the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Commission’s website at futurelakeplacid.com. (CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the study would be posted on both the town and village’s websites, based on incorrect information from the JCHC.)

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