New Lake Placid housing on the horizon?
Local orgs eye new affordable housing co-op after anonymous land donation
LAKE PLACID — Another affordable housing project is emerging in Lake Placid, this time with the development of a co-op housing community on a 103-acre parcel of land in the town of North Elba.
The Adirondack North Country Association on Wednesday announced that — alongside Massachusetts-based nonprofit the Cooperative Development Institute and with the support of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative — it’s in the beginning stages of forming a cooperative housing community that could create dozens of new affordable housing units for locals. ANCA has worked with CDI in the past to help Ward Lumber transition into its new capacity as an employee-owned business cooperative.
The AnantaFO Foundation LLC committed the 103-acre parcel of land, located in North Elba off of Averyville Lane, to ANCA’s co-op project after a private donor handed the parcel over to the foundation. The land is partially classified by the Adirondack Park Agency for rural intensity use and partially as hamlet, the least restrictive classification. There is a large amount of forest area on the land, and the Chubb River flows through the parcel. ANCA Executive Director Elizabeth Cooper said that the original land donor, who wants to remain anonymous, wants to preserve much of the forested area while contributing to the need for more affordable housing. She said that around 15 acres of the land could be developed for housing.
The amount and type of housing that will be developed on this land hasn’t been decided yet — that’s why ANCA held a learning session in the Lake Placid Middle-High School auditorium on Wednesday to inform people about the kinds of residential co-ops that could be formed and to begin recruiting a group of people who are interested in becoming resident-owners of the co-op. ANCA is planning to hold a virtual question and answer session about the co-op at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8, with more learning sessions coming down the pike.
ANCA staff hope that this residential co-op could become a model that inspires the creation of other co-ops in the 14 northern New York counties the association serves.
“We’re really trying to take a different approach,” Cooper said. “There’s so much work to be done, and we try to collaborate with our partners, the other nonprofits and whatnot, and not just redo the work of somebody else. This is a different niche. It is a needed niche. The housing problem is so big that I don’t care what niche you’re taking on, it’s excellent, do it — and do more.”
What’s a housing co-op?
A housing co-op is a housing community that is owned and operated by the people who live there.
Co-ops operate on a democratic governance process, where everyone who’s a member of the co-op has a say in the decisions that get made. According to CDI Director of Business Services Katherine Bessey, co-ops are all about meeting the needs of people who are members — who are also the residents — of the co-op. Each member has one share in the co-op, one eligible seat on the co-op’s governing board and one vote in the governance process, according to Bessey, so no member of a co-op has more power than any other member.
ANCA is already talking with some local entities that have expressed interest in helping with the co-op development process, according to Bessey, including the Adirondack Park Agency, Paul Smith’s College students, tiny house consultants, MIT architecture graduate students and town officials. While the CDI is a partner in the co-op development, too, CDI Cooperative Business Director Margaret Miley said CDI doesn’t want to lead the process.
Steering the co-op
The true leaders who will decide how the co-op will be formed — the kinds of buildings that are built on the property, the number of units available, the layout of the community and other factors — will be a steering committee made up of people who will ultimately live in the Averyville co-op and become the co-op’s founding governance board.
ANCA hopes to form the steering committee — ideally made up of seven to 12 people or more — by continuing to hold learning sessions like the one on Wednesday, where people who are interested in cooperative living can come and learn more about how co-ops work. ANCA Entrepreneurial Economy Program Director Danielle Delaini, who’s also coordinating the co-op development, said it might take a while to find the right group of people who are interested in guiding the vision of the co-op. She said that’s OK — ANCA is willing to hold as many learning sessions as it takes to form the committee.
Miley said that the steering committees of many of the co-ops she’s been involved with aren’t necessarily made up of people with entrepreneurial experience — they’re everyday people who show up to learn how to form an effective living situation that’s needed by the co-op’s members. CDI plans to hold training sessions for people interested in being part of the steering committee.
The steering committee doesn’t have to stick to one type of building for the property either — they could choose a blend of tiny homes, multi-family homes, condominiums, or any other combination of housing types. Cooper envisioned a co-op that could serve young professionals with tiny homes while also serving families with children and senior citizens looking for a small home to live out their days in the midst of a community.
It could be at least a few years before residents get the keys to their homes at the Averyville co-op, according to Bessey, and that timeline largely depends on the steering committee — how fast the committee forms, assesses the needs of its prospective members, and moves forward with planning, design and construction phases. Bessey said CDI hopes a steering committee could be formed this fall so that, by January, the committee could work with MIT architecture graduate students to start sketching out some design ideas. Beyond that, she thought the entire process could take a few years.
Bessey said that no matter what the project’s scope ends up being, CDI and ANCA will make sure that the units stay affordable and meet the community’s needs with as many affordable housing units as possible.
A 2020 housing needs assessment study showed that with a target of 50% of the local workforce living within the community, North Elba and Lake Placid had a need for roughly 1,534 “workforce and affordable level” housing units.
Most of that assessed need, 1,013 units, was for people who make less than $35,150 per year. In the study, affordable rent for that income range was defined as less than $879 per month for an apartment and under $123,000 for a house.
ANCA is working with the ADI to ensure that the formation of the new co-op is an inclusive and equitable process. ADI Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson said that cooperative housing communities have roots in Black and Indigenous cultures. Originally from Jamaica, Hylton-Patterson said she remembers being raised by four or five people who she wasn’t related to. She said that developing this new co-op is all about giving working people the opportunity for home ownership that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
“Housing justice is social justice,” she said.
Delaini said that anyone interested in becoming part of the co-op’s steering committee who faces barriers in attending listening sessions and meetings — like finding childcare or accessing food — should contact ANCA for help so that they can still be involved in the steering process. People can contact ANCA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-891-6200.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Danielle Delaini is ANCA’s Entrepreneurial Economy program coordinator, she is the Entrepreneurial Economy program director. An earlier version of this article also said the property was committed by the Ananta Foundation, it’s the AnantaFO Foundation LLC.