Housing for Sullivan County and beyond

Posted 1/24/23

MONTICELLO, NY — An $8 million project in Monticello looks to pair housing with commercial development.

Three properties on Broadway, all taken over by the Sullivan County Land Bank (SCLB) …

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Housing for Sullivan County and beyond


MONTICELLO, NY — An $8 million project in Monticello looks to pair housing with commercial development.

Three properties on Broadway, all taken over by the Sullivan County Land Bank (SCLB) after they were abandoned, are being eyed for multi-layered development, with commercial development on the first floor and apartments on the second. The project will add 16 housing units to the area, said Jill Weyer, executive director for the SCLB, speaking at a January 19 public hearing.

The project is one raindrop in a storm of ideas about how to address housing affordability.

Affordability issues

Unaffordable housing is a problem across the nation.

The median sale price for a single-family home jumped from $327,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, to $408,100 in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to analysis from the Pew Research Center. The median monthly rent experienced a similar increase, going from $909 in 2019 to $1,015 in 2021.

The same trends have affected the Sullivan County area. A report from regional think-tank Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress (HVPP) found the median sales price for a Sullivan County home to be $277,000 in the third quarter of 2022, up from $119,300 two years earlier. An average household in Sullivan County spends 24 percent of its total income on housing, reads an earlier report. “Although rental costs for a single adult are affordable in Sullivan, the addition of other living costs still produces a wage gap; the average renter there remains an estimated $693 short of an adequate standard of living every month.”

Renters and regulators alike are looking to address the issue of housing unaffordability. In so doing, they’re reaching for a variety of tools.

Zoning issues

New York governor Kathy Hochul named housing as a priority in her 2023 state of the state address, inaugurating a plan called the New York Housing Compact. The plan aims to create 800,000 new homes in the next 10 years, double what the state created in the prior decade.

Hochul’s state of the state took aim at local zoning regulations as an impediment to that 800,000 goal. New York “leads the nation in restrictive land-use policies and building approval processes that stymie growth, inhibit the development of multi-family housing and add significant costs to building homes. From convoluted permitting cycles that can take years to resolve to outright prohibitions on building duplexes and numerous other types of housing, many areas around the state have effectively made it illegal to build new housing or different types of housing,” reads a passage from the state-of-the-state address.

Towns, cities and villages will have to meet targets for new houses built on a three-year cycle, as proposed by Hochul. For upstate municipalities, that target will be one percent over three years. If municipalities don’t meet their targets, projects can be approved through a state appeals system even if they don’t meet local zoning requirements.  

The proposal wrenches some control away from local planning and zoning boards, and weakens the restrictions of local zoning laws. It’s a big shift, but it’s one that aligns with some local experts’ advice.

HVPP hosted a November 2022 conference with 100-plus regional stakeholders to discuss housing issues. In a January summary of that conference, HVPP stated that the group’s recommendations aligned closely with Hochul’s proposals.

“Most zoning and building codes incentivize and protect a singular path to homeownership by favoring single-family homes and relatively large lots, which increase the cost of ownership due to high land costs… Lengthy and costly local planning review processes can deter development altogether, especially when it comes to projects that offer alternatives to the status quo,” writes HVPP.


The Monticello project benefits from some local zoning foresight.

Back in 2015, the village passed two local laws addressing zoning along Broadway. The changes allowed residential use of the second and third floors of buildings in the B-2 zoning district, limited to one- and two-bedroom units, the same type of development that the SCLB project is targeting.

The project will take advantage as well of a more typical tool of government intervention: money.

The January 19 public hearing regarded an application for $2 million in funding from the Restore New York program, a program that’s intended to help municipal revitalization. The SCLB and its partner RUPCO will seek grant funding from other sources for the rest of the project, said Weyer.

Government funding helps fill in an affordability gap, Weyer told the River Reporter early in January; “How can we try and build affordably when it’s not affordable to build right now?” Numbers in the Sullivan County housing plan show about an $800 per month gap between the amount of rent a developer would have to charge to break even and the amount of rent that a median household in Sullivan County can afford.

The housing plan, conducted throughout 2022, will help Sullivan County unleash that funding, said Weyer; it helps demonstrate the need for that funding and its application, making grant applications more persuasive. Sullivan County, too, has dedicated money toward the effort; while the county isn’t sure yet how it will use that money, its use may include resources to help housing developments find funding.

The need for affordability

The ultimate impact of work similar to the Monticello project will involve the people who can occupy a community from the housing they provide.

“The proposed development by RUPCO will, I think, stimulate activity on the street, make it a more vibrant community [and] bring life to Broadway.” said legislator Alan Sorensen, speaking at the January 19 public hearing.

“We need housing, we need people to live somewhere. There’s 16 families right there,” said legislator Nadia Rajsz.

housing, affordable housing, New York, Monticello


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