What does the housing study show?

Thousands of locals impacted by housing crisis, with high prices and low wages driving shortage

SARANAC LAKE — The Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board’s 296-page report on the housing crisis released in March includes a massive amount of data, and below is a fraction of the highlights for Franklin and Essex counties.

Data from the study shows about 10% of Franklin County’s approximately 47,000 residents pay more than about one-third of their income toward housing, as does 11% of Essex County’s approximately 37,000 residents. For both counties, that is around 9,000 people paying more than is sustainable for a roof.

Around 774 residents in Franklin County and 695 in Essex County have long commutes to work each day because they live far away from their employment.

In Essex County, there are 187 households with more people living in the home than it can safely hold. The same goes for 124 households in Franklin County.

In both counties, nearly half of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are living with their parents, relatives or roommates — 2,500 in Essex County and 4,200 in Franklin County.

Nearly 700 of those people in Franklin County have to live with family because they can’t afford a place of their own, and 214 in Essex County are in the same situation.

The study shows that 22% of houses in the four-county area are classified as vacant because they are second homes, or vacation homes.

In Essex County, 30% of homes are vacant seasonal residences, and in Franklin County, it’s 18%.

“Since 2010, the number of these units rose by more than 2,300 in the four-county region — a 12% gain,” according to the report. “This shift meant a corresponding rise in their share of the total housing stock from 20% to 22% by 2020.”

The cost of construction

The cost of construction was already on the rise before the pandemic, supply chain issues and rampant inflation began. The cost per square foot of housing in the U.S. increased 33% between 2017 and 2019 — from $86 to $114. That cost had risen to $135 per square foot in 2022.

In rural areas, costs are much higher, between $250 and $350 per square foot, according to the study.

Only 23% of Franklin County residents can afford a new home larger than 1,000 square feet at these prices, according to the study. That’s less than half the size of a regulation tennis court, or around the size of five car garage bays.

In the past decade, the four-county region has lost around 25% of its carpenters, electricians, painters and maintenance workers according to the study. There have been gains in areas like flooring, drywall and paving, but losses in others.

Wage gap

There has also been a slow rise in wages.

The median household income in the region grew by 15% from 2015 to 2020 while the median home price grew by 28% during this time frame.

A typical household would need an additional $20,000 in annual income to afford a typical median-priced home in the region

“The minimum annual household income required to purchase a median-valued home in the region without being ‘cost burdened’ is $77,000,” the report states. “However, the median annual household income in the region is only $57,000 indicating that a typical household would need an additional $20,000 in annual income to afford a typical single-family home.”

That gap is smaller in Franklin County, at around $5,000, but much larger in Essex County, at $43,000. Accounting for non-waterfront homes, that gap lessens for Franklin County — $427 — but is still high for Essex County — $32,800. Accounting for the most common occupations in each county, the gap rises to $11,000 in Franklin County and $53,000 in Essex County.

The median full market value of a home in Essex County is $155,000, and in Franklin County it is $110,000. North Elba is the second-highest town in Essex County next to Keene with a median full market value of $309,300. Harrietstown comes in at $190,600 and Tupper Lake at $124,000.

The median assessed home value in Franklin County rose 24.5% from 2010 to 2020 and 8.3% in Essex County. Meanwhile the median sale price of a home in Franklin County rose 54% from 2016 to 2021 and 47.1% in Essex County.

In 2021, the median sale price of a home in Tupper Lake was $135,500 with 93 sales listed. In Harrietstown, it was $285,000 with 93 sales. In North Elba, it was $500,000 with 135 sales.

The number of home sales in Franklin County jumped from 300 in 2015 to 500 in 2021. In Essex County, that jumped from 250 in 2015 to 550 in 2021. This has led to a low housing inventory. At the same time, the number of residential units in Franklin County has not shifted at all statistically in the past decade. The 12 units gained represent a 0% change. Essex County saw a loss of 480 units, a 2% decrease in its housing stock. The average pace of housing development in the region has declined by 39% over the past 10 years compared to the previous 10 years.


In both counties, around a quarter of year-round households are rented. The Tri-Lakes population centers are all in the top 10 highest in these rates. Around 30% of year-round households in Tupper Lake are rented, 37% in Harrietstown and 37% in North Elba.

In Essex County, the median rent was $810 in 2020. In Franklin County it was $706. Rents had risen around 20% in both counties in the previous decade — or around $125.

Rent in Tupper Lake is the sixth lowest in the four-county area, at a median of $641.

Apartment vacancies have declined sharply since 2018, dropping from around an average of 7% of all units, where it had held since 2000, to around 3.3% in 2022.

The report was conducted through the economic development consulting firm Camoin Associates and focuses on Essex, Franklin, Clinton and Hamilton counties. It took 10 months of research, including a regional community housing needs survey with 595 responses, an employer survey with 95 responses, and a public workshop and municipal leadership meeting in each county. It touches on all parts of life — employment, economy, family, age, travel, recreation, environment, government and construction.

The full report can be read at https://adobe.ly/3WFQuUQ.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today