Saratoga Springs nears solutions to its lack of affordable housing

March 28, 2017 09:46 AM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Rev. Joseph Cleveland has been the minister at Unitarian Universalist church on North Broadway for two-and-a-half years.

For the first year-and-a-half, Cleveland and his wife lived in an apartment not far from the church so he could meet the needs of his congregants.

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"I wanted to live close by, but we couldn't sustain it. Too much of our income was going into just paying for housing," Cleveland said.

So the reverend and his wife moved out of the city and into Wilton, which is what many who work in local restaurants and hotels have been doing for years because they can't afford the rent or the lease at high-end apartments or condos.

"The number of housing units constructed over the past 15 years are primarily high-end, high-income units. That's not serving the needs of the community in general and the city is becoming less and less diverse," said Christian Mathiesen, the city's public safety commissioner.

But help could soon be on the way. The city is pushing for an inclusionary zoning ordinance which would make developers include some lower-cost units in their projects.

The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce says there are sites and developers that are ready to go. They say a developer wants to build 160 workforce apartments off West Avenue.

The Chamber also says the old, run down and vacant Saratoga Diner would be a perfect place to build affordable housing.

The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority wants to build 60 to 80 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments behind Stonequist Apartments.

With city approval, they could start building in a year. 

The sooner the better, Cleveland says.

"We don't want wealth to be a force that cuts us off from one another," he said.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen calls adding more workforce housing her "top priority" and says her Housing Task Force is driving a comprehensive strategy that includes plans for West Avenue, South Broadway (Saratoga Diner property) and the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority property behind Stonequist Apartments.


Mark Mulholland

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