Forum highlights housing challenges in the region
At a housing forum Thursday hosted by the Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley at Harts Hill Inn in Whitesboro, housing challenges and data collection efforts highlighted discussion as well as immediate housing needs and long-term because they have an impact on community issues such as labor recruitment.
Over the past year, a task force working through the Genesis Center for Excellence has collected community data and held meetings with stakeholders across the region to examine the role and impact of analytics. of data in various industries, as well as to identify potential projects focused on workforce recruitment and retention efforts. in the Mohawk Valley and having enough available and suitable housing options at various price points to meet all needs.
An emerging theme from the work was the lack of housing and its direct impact on the difficulty of recruiting and retaining workers, said panelists speaking on the impact of housing on the local economy which included: Linda Aloisio, President of Mohawk Valley Home Builders & Renovators; Richard Dowe, executive director of Stone Ridge Residences in Herkimer County; James Genovese, Oneida County Planning Commissioner and OC Vision 20/20 and Timothy Crilly, of Park Grove Realty and Tech Barn at Marcy Nanocenter.
Collectively, the panelists’ remarks painted a chicken or egg situation when it came to both recruiting and retaining employees in the area and finding available housing.
Dowe noted that while there is growth in housing projects in Herkimer County, there are challenges such as a lack of available public transit options that some may need to get to jobs in the surrounding communities. Thus, developers examining the marketability of a neighborhood for a project might be deterred from pursuing certain communities.
Image and data of the accommodation
The housing situation is not black and white, according to forum panelists.
Aside from their discussion, one can begin to get an idea by looking at Census.gov’s population estimates for Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, and Oneida counties — and then comparing them with the stock of available housing units.
The United States Census Bureau provides annual data estimates outside of the official ten-year census. In their methodology, they start from the data collected during the ten-year study and take births, deaths and migrations into account for their population estimates. Housing units are estimated by using the ten-year census count as a base and by examining available data for new construction projects (often looking for building permit information), mobile home constructions, and subtracting losses of known housing units in a particular area.
Based on annual estimates by the United States Census, datasets released this spring show that in 2021, Herkimer County had approximately 32,408 dwellings and a population of 59,937.
Turning to surrounding counties for 2021 figures, Lewis County had approximately 15,558 dwellings and an estimated population of 26,573; Madison County could have had 30,629 housing units and a population of 67,658; and Oneida County had perhaps 105,260 dwellings and a population of 230,274.
After looking at these numbers, you might ask yourself, “What’s the problem?” »
Assessment of available stock
Addressing the calculations behind the valuation of available housing stock, Genovese said that for various reasons there is currently a 7% vacancy rate in rental units at all price points and 2% of residences are currently empty.
“That’s a low rate,” he said, contributing to the current weak housing stock sentiment.
Furthermore, he pointed out that “different types of housing appeal to different types of people.”
This adds to the difficulty of recruiting employees because they cannot find housing.
Dowe added that even in Herkimer County, housing stock is low because “people expect affordable housing and comfortable homes.”
As housing and employment datasets continue to be collected and co-examined by the task force and others, remedies include seeking state and federal grants that can help with home improvement efforts. existing buildings, working to improve infrastructure and public services to make building sites more attractive to developers and finding ways to reduce property taxes, Genovese and panelists said.
Turning to a discussion of ongoing housing work, Genovese noted that since 2010, 1,694 housing units have been built in Oneida County.
Among the housing projects underway are the AirCity Lofts in Rome and the Woodhaven residential project, which will total nearly 250 single-family residential homes by the end of construction.
Aloisio added that there must be more grant programs available to encourage the renovation and improvement of existing housing units.
At the end of the forum, everyone agreed that looking at housing and employment issues and creating solutions to address them is a “team effort”.