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HOUSING THE HUDSON VALLEY as it appears in the Senior Gazette

Housing the Hudson Valley, as it appears in the Senior Gazette, written by John C. Cappello, Esq., Partner, Jacobowitz and Gubits and Joe Czajka, Senior Vice President of Research, Development & Community Planning and Executive Director Center for Housing Solutions and Community Initiatives, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress

Recent development and growth in the Hudson Valley, for the most part, have been commercial consisting of resorts and tourism destinations, many large warehousing and distribution centers, light manufacturing, and some retail.  Locally, since the 2008 recession hit, the issue of housing has been left on the back burner.

However, the times they are a changing. The pandemic, coupled with the emergence of technology, broadband issues aside, facilitates remote work and has led to a migration to the Hudson Valley from other larger Northeast cities. Prospective homebuyers looking to the Hudson Valley are engaging in bidding wars and sellers are often receiving more than the asking price for their homes. The result is skyrocketing home prices and an increasing demand for new residential development across the region.

This is good news for sellers, contractors, and trades people among others. The influx of new residents to the region will also bring increased support for existing businesses and bring new ideas and energy to our community as we emerge from the pandemic.

However, as we plan to reap the benefits of this potential real estate boom it is essential that we appropriately plan to accommodate growth. This is especially important as it relates to our seniors looking to downsize while staying near family and friends in the Hudson Valley.

The population of the United States is getting older. Increased life expectancy from advances in medicine and technology is coinciding with the aging of baby boomers, one of the largest generations in American history, leading to an older country. This ongoing demographic shift has been colloquially dubbed “The Silver Tsunami.”

The median age in the United States has been steadily trending upwards since the 1970s and has increased every year for the last 10 years. The Mid-Hudson Valley mirrors this national demographic shift, and is home to an older population than the nation as a whole. In the United States, the median age is 38 years. With the exception of Orange County, every county in the study area has a median age above the national figure.

Population projection models estimate a significant increase in the number of people age 65 and above by 2030. This aging of the population will have a significant impact on the Mid-Hudson Valley and raises the question whether the Valley is prepared for the coming changes. As the population grows older, there will be an increasing need for medical services and home health aides as well as affordable nursing homes to take care of the elderly. Additional technology to assist the elderly population in rural areas also needs to be addressed.

Although we cannot precisely know how much the Mid-Hudson Valley’s older population will grow and the impact it will have, it is clear that a significant demographic shift has begun and deeper changes are on the horizon. Government leaders and policy makers must continue to analyze this shift and prepare for the multifaceted changes it may bring.

It is vital that our region maximize all the tools available in our efforts to provide a wide range of housing opportunities for those who have contributed so much to the fiber of our community. However, a cursory review of the homes for sale and available rentals demonstrates that there are too few housing opportunities available for seniors on fixed incomes at a cost that is affordable to them.

Fortunately, there are several organizations, planning groups, and developers focusing on the problem, providing education on the impact of a lack of housing opportunities, and developing new and innovative options to help to address our housing problems for all aspects of our community including seniors.

Locally the Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Center for Housing Solutions https://www.pattern-for-progress.org/the-center-for-housing-solutions/ provides a wealth of information on housing trends in the region as well as providing expert analysis and discussion on solutions to the problem of lack of adequate area housing opportunities.

The development of tiny or smaller homes, multi-family dwellings, conversion of large historic homes in our cities and villages to shared housing opportunities for seniors, and accessory dwelling units, are just a few of the examples that can and should be considered in Hudson Valley communities. All of these options are developed on smaller footprints with much less land disturbance than traditional large suburban single-family housing. In addition, by incorporating energy saving building design and alternative energy features, any adverse environmental impact can be further minimized resulting in a win-win for our region.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a self-contained apartment that is found within the envelope of a single-family home, or as a separate structure adjacent to a home on an existing residential lot. ADUs provide an affordable housing option with benefits to the municipality, local employers, homeowners, families, and the aging population.

The ADU may be used as an affordable housing option for an elderly relative to safely age in place with their family members living within the same home or on the same property while retaining a level of independence

Tiny homes are small stand-alone homes providing 240-600 sq. ft. of self-contained living space. These homes can be aggregated as a community or used as an ADU on a lot containing a single family home. One innovative tiny home project was completed in Kansas City in 2019 by The Veterans Community Project where 49 “tiny houses” ranging in size from 240-320 sq. ft. were constructed on a five-acre plot to provide decent transitional housing for homeless veterans (see www.veteranscommunityproject.org  for more info).  This same model can certainly be replicated to provide housing for seniors.

There is no single solution to address the wide range of housing needs for seniors. The concepts described above are just a few possibilities. It is important, however, for all of us to come together as a community to start to address the need to provide for reasonable and sustainable housing for all those wishing to live in our region.

This is not intended to be legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for questions regarding your specific situation.

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John C. Cappello, Partner of Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP in Monticello, NYJohn C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 845-764-9656 and by email.

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