Proposal For Affordable Housing Runs Into Political Buzz Saw

Well, the vote on  the SPA Housing Ordinance has been put off yet again following the full throated concerns expressed by the developers and bankers at the workshop on Tuesday, June 13.  The ordinance would require  that in residential developments of 10 or more units, 20 percent of the units for sale or rent be dedicated as affordable to households of moderate or low income.

However you may feel about this ordinance, the way this process has unfolded keeps getting more and more depressing as an example of how easily certain people with power get special treatment.

For those of us who regularly observe the operation of the City Council, the events of the last month regarding this issue have been anything but usual.  Bear in mind that the proponents of this proposal have been engaging the essential players of this drama going back practically a year.  The draft was written by a nationally recognized consultant who specializes in affordable housing.  He has drawn on the experience of communities who have drafted similar legislation across the country.  The proponents of the ordinance have had meetings with developers like Sonny Bonacio and with local banks.  There have also been numerous meetings with members of the City Council.  This was no surprise proposal suddenly dropped on the city.  There was ample notice of public hearings where both proponents and opponents addressed the Council.  Normal procedure and I do mean normal procedure, is that the Council then votes on the proposal.

Forget that.  Suddenly the members of the Council discovered that there are all these critical questions unanswered and the gears of government jammed to a halt.  Commissioner Madigan is quoted at the last workshop as follows:

“The density bonus, the zoning language, pilots, deed language, foreclosure and sunset clause and that’s just off the top of my head. And then I do think we are there. It’s just going to take a little more time to get there.”

I do not question that the items she referenced are controversial or that members of the Council may be uninformed on these issues.  Based on the chatter around the table it was clear that at least John Franck and Skip Scirocco shared her concerns.  My question is why weren’t these issues raised earlier in the process.

I am also skeptical that this can all be worked out with just a little more time. It was clear that for all the professions of some of the players about their desire to make this work, the solutions to the problems the developers and bankers raised with the proposed ordinance will not be fixed with just a few tweaks.  John Witt was the most direct.  According to the Times Union:

“Developer John Witt said he can’t make it happen.

‘I like the idea of more units, but the lowest cost we could get it to would be about $2,500 a month with mortgage, insurance, taxes, utilities,’ Witt said. ‘That’s at a mortgage rate of 4.1 percent and if the land is sold at a cost of zero.’

Witt said his margins are only 5 percent and that he doesn’t have the money to invest in affordable units.”

So now there is no date for a vote and somehow the objections by the bankers and developers are going to be worked out “sometime” in the future.

Let me be clear, I am sufficiently ignorant regarding the ordinance that I have no idea whether some or, for that matter, all of the concerns scattered on the Council table by the opponents are valid.

I do, however, have certain basic insights  into the players in all of this.  I know that the bankers and developers are skilled people who have survived because they work very hard at maximizing the profit margin of their projects.  This is not a criticism of them.  This is the nature of what it takes to succeed.

I have noted on this blog repeatedly that I am something of a fan of Sonny Bonacio who is a most likable fellow when he turns on the charm.  I love his energy and I think he has done a lot across the capital district to create a variety of beneficial projects.  Caffe Lena immediately comes to mind, and he is doing some creative things in Troy which can use as much help as it can get.

I do, however, also remember that when he wanted to  convert Moore Hall into micro apartments he was adamant before  the Zoning Board of Appeals that taking down the building and replacing it with something more acceptable to the neighborhood was not financially feasible.  Of course, it turned out that it was feasible and the new condos for that site are under construction as I write this posting.

I seriously question the ability of the Council members to assess the arguments and changes that will be forward by those objecting to the ordinance.  I am particularly concerned that this will all be done at private meetings with individual Council members which in itself is not wrong but which will cast a serious cloud on whatever emerges (if something actually finally emerges).

I would offer a way forward that I think would be beneficial to both the Council and the public.  Tell the opponents that they need to sit down with the proponents of the ordinance and try to work it out with them.  In the event that they cannot come to an agreement, ask the opponents to draft their proposed changes and ask the proponents to draft a position paper that lays out their problems with the changes and how the proponents’ proposal addresses the basic concerns raised by the opponents.

The Council could then take whatever action they deemed appropriate and the public would be in a position to assess the outcome.  This would meet that badly overused term called transparency.

It is my hope that the Mayor and Council would support this approach.

20 thoughts on “Proposal For Affordable Housing Runs Into Political Buzz Saw”

  1. John? You missed this one COMPLETELY.

    First off, re: “The ordinance would require that in residential developments of 10 or more units, 20 percent of the units for sale or rent be dedicated as affordable to households of moderate or low income.”

    WRONG. This does NOTHING for low income. NOTHING!!! You need to make app. $45k a year to get help from this, which is SICKENING truthfully, as it literally spits in the face of virtually everyone working in those shops, bars, restaurants and hotels we have – not to mention our seniors as well.

    I have met with Sustainable Saratoga numerous times. I have met with council members and developers, but not any bankers. I can’t even begin to hazard a guess on how many meetings I have had on this ordinance alone. But it was VERY obvious from the start that there was some serious problems with this ordinance, and as a long time advocate for affordable workforce, senior, vet housing and housing for the homeless I could not support this ordinance because of those problems. And please understand, as a liberal I am taking a LOT of heat from my friends on the left. But I DID my homework here John. The developers are right: the numbers don’t work. Nor does the purchase part of this ordinance (consensus is that the rental part could however). And nor does it for ‘lower income’, of which the assumption is that everyone below that can get section 8 help, and that isn’t even close to true (federal numbers show that only 25% of those applying for help actually get it). Do the other 75% just get thrown to the wolves? Those working 60+ hours a week just trying to afford an overpriced closet to live in? What if Trump’s budget slashes HUD funding to draconian levels as currently proposed? Yesterday they announced that Eric Trump’s wedding planner will now head NY and NJ HUD, that has ZERO experience in housing. Seriously. What happens to us then? And ESPECIALLY when you stop to realize that the vast majority of people that are eligible for section 8 help don’t even bother to apply!!!

    One of the biggest arguments from the council was this: “we have to do something – anything – for housing”. My counter is simple: is doing something for the sake of doing something the right thing to do, even if you know it is wrong for the city at large? It’s not a ‘start’ either as some in the housing industry have told me either. It’s slamming the backdoor shut to make sure nothing will get done for another decade or so when people realize it doesn’t work.

    John and Michele did the RIGHT thing. They listened to BOTH sides, read the ordinance and did some figuring on it. Both, like myself, are long time proponents for affordable workforce and senior housing here (John in fact was one of the key people in the Omni project at Stonequist more than a decade ago that was shot down by NIMBY’s here, while Michele has been instrumental in many Habitat for Humanity projects here). I believe they are much like myself on this: get it RIGHT, and don’t pass bad legislation that will make things even worse. That’s what GOOD politics is supposed to do! This is NOT a ‘left or right’ issue – it’s about making sure it works, And right now it does not, and hasn’t since what – 2006?

    Sonny Bonacio was absolutely right. If someone actually did the math and listened to the needs of the developers, we might be at a point where everyone supported this ordinance, but I can tell you from my own dealings with Sustainable Saratoga and the city council that those in favor are NOT willing to bend to make this thing work. THEY are the ones that don’t ‘get it’. This does absolutely nothing to solve for the three main issues we MUST solve for here: Land costs, zoning and NIMBY’s (and I defy ANYONE to prove to me that it will). This is SUPPOSED to be mixed housing – but are you going to complain about your ‘low income’ neighbor driving his brand new Lexus??? In fact, the entire ‘logic’ of Sustainable Saratoga’s housing plans defies just that. You can NOT just pack people in like sardines in the downtown districts, because the numbers won’t work there either. Eventually you have to build out or up (and another story on a building will NEVER work here. ANYONE that has looked at the numbers understands that clearly).

    As much as I wanted to get behind this ordinance, I just can’t. It misses on virtually every point. It’s NOT a start at all – it’s a shove down the back steps that will set housing back here at least another decade.

    And I’ll tell you this too: until we find a way to create truly affordable small ‘starter’ type homes (NOT apartments!) for the workforce and seniors, we will just keep the same status quo problems in housing here (and it CAN be done in a VERY green way as well). But this ordinance? It’s terrible. How anyone can support this thing defies belief to me. I can tell you this: anyone that DOES vote for it lost my support guaranteed.

    Make it work for everyone – and for the REAL lower income levels too – or don’t do it at all.

    Dave Morris
    Saratogians for Sustainable Housing
    https://www.facebook.com/Saratogians-For-Sustainable-Housing-995416890486648/

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    1. Dave—I don’t think Mr. Kaufmann took a position on the inclusionary ordinance one way or the other but instead expressed concerns about the process that will lead to a decision by the Council. I must say it would be nice if we had a Mayor who would show some leadership on this. It’d be good if she would show some initiative and get the two sides together to discuss their differences publicly and see if there is any possible resolution. She seems to be nowhere to be seen on this except to issue some vague platitudes as usual.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. DD – it was addressed (“John and Michele did the RIGHT thing. They listened to BOTH sides, read the ordinance and did some figuring on it. Both, like myself, are long time proponents for affordable workforce and senior housing here (John in fact was one of the key people in the Omni project at Stonequist more than a decade ago that was shot down by NIMBY’s here, while Michele has been instrumental in many Habitat for Humanity projects here). I believe they are much like myself on this: get it RIGHT, and don’t pass bad legislation that will make things even worse. That’s what GOOD politics is supposed to do! This is NOT a ‘left or right’ issue – it’s about making sure it works, And right now it does not, and hasn’t since what – 2006?).

        I won’t comment on the mayor however. At this point, I really don’t need to anyway. Her actions (or INaction as the case is here) speaks for itself.

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  2. John,

    Thank you for your coverage of this issue. As you can imagine I wholeheartedly agree with everything Mr Morris has to say. Having attended most of the original IZOD meetings when the Innovative Housing Institute contributed their expertise, I am pretty well versed in the major issues. I assume these are the players (and Monte Frank) you’re referencing when you say:

    “The draft was written by a nationally recognized consultant who specializes in affordable housing. He has drawn on the experience of communities who have drafted similar legislation across the country.”

    As you know the original draft languished after its creation. The folks at IHI were, indeed, the most capable consultants in the industry having broad experience with many inclusionary projects including Montgomery County Maryland’s landmark ordinance. They would be the first to tell you no one ordinance can work for every municipality. However, there are a few components that are necessary if a municipality truly seeks a working model. Unfortunately, these components are dependent upon an earnest give and take between the municipality and the developers. I understand your disdain for developers but in this case they are an integral piece of the puzzle. If the developers aren’t given sufficient incentive they wont participate. This isn’t my biased assumption…this is the opinion of the people at IHI.

    For the purposes of Saratoga Springs, the two issues that jump out at me are the density bonus and the what is basically a tax on 100% commercial projects. These are the two issues that will require sacrifices from each party (the municipality and the developers). If the ordinance lacks the capacity for a true market rate density bonus (not a bonus that simply adds affordable units) and fails to sufficiently tax commercial projects it will fail plain and simple.

    Without a tax on commercial projects developers will choose to NOT build residential. This will, of course, harm the city’s residential housing stock. If the tax isn’t in the ordinance it is fatally flawed. You can be sure the so called “power brokers” would have been on top of this from the get go. The funds derived from a commercial tax provide significant capital for housing trust funds that are essential to the long term success of these ordinances. The fact that this commercial tax wasn’t even up for discussion is proof enough that this process is a farce.

    Density bonuses are a bit more complicated…especially in the City’s T-zones where most future growth is being focused. The only way to add density in the T-zones is to go UP. This was a major issue during the first go-around. With a working ordinance, you would have to add floors for the bonus market units AND the required affordable units. This could easily add two stories on top of the what I believe is the 60′ max height in the T-6. Do you think that was a problem for some people back in 2003? Do you think its a salient issue in 2017? Essentially, a requirement for 20% affordable results in an actual density increase of 40% (20% market density bonus and 20% affordable requirement). The current ordinance allows 1 additional story. If the increased density cannot be accommodated within the 1 story the affordable requirement will be reduced.

    The overarching theme (from the professionals) in 2003 was that everyone (the developers and the municipality) had to go “all in.” There are no half measures. The current draft is a half measure that will rein in development and harm the residential stock of the City. Projects that were conceived as multi-unit residential will morph into mixed use w/ 9 units or 100% commercial. Large scale residential projects will migrate to rural areas outside the City’s borders (a phenomenon called “sprawl”).

    In sum, Sustainable Saratoga couldn’t have drafted a more perfect ordinance for their own narrow purposes. Less development in the City and unsightly garden apartments way out in Schuylerville where the aesthetic doesn’t quite matter so much. The developers, for their part, have plenty of options that fall outside the regs.

    As you stated John:

    “the bankers and developers are skilled people who have survived because they work very hard at maximizing the profit margin of their projects…This is the nature of what it takes to succeed.”

    When the developers run the pro-forma’s on the office tower vs. the residential tower w/ the mandated aff units and accompanying lengthy planning review dissecting height increases, unit comparability etc you can be sure that exercise is over before it begins.

    You want an ordinance that works? Give an expedited planning review with relaxed requirements that incorporates the full market density bonus/aff units (regardless of height/density) and tax all the other commercial projects. Of course, this would never happen because the sponsors don’t have the mettle to fight the big fights. They would rather push through a faulty ordinance that, at its worst, will at least restrict residential development in the City.

    Of course, it might also help to relax the density restrictions in the so-called “greenbelt” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greg:
      I appreciate your long and thoughtful comment. As I have stated before, my problem is with the process. The wandering nature of the discussion at the workshop only added to the confusion. In fact the actual differences over the proposed ordinance may be intractable and the council may reject the ordinance. In fact, I do not dismiss the idea that the economics of both providing affordable housing through an ordinance while protecting the character of downtown and the greenbelt may not be viable.

      First, however, the issues need to be clarified so that lay people such as myself (and the council) can better assess the potential solutions. The opponents of the existing proposal need to offer whatever amendments or an entirely alternative proposal along with a well written analysis explaining the logic of their position. Assuming the proponents cannot agree to the changes, they need to similarly lay out why they oppose whatever is offered and explain why they think the changes should not be approved.

      This will allow the kind of (pardon the overused word) transparency so that everyone will understand what the nature of the conflict is between the developers/bankers and the Sustainable Saratoga folks.

      I would also add that I do not demonize people in development or bankers (although I am not a fan of the mega banks that helped bring us the 2008 crash). They have their interests and without them we would not have much in the way of housing. I simply know that when money is on the table it can tend to cloud discussions. Clearly, if this ordinance is successful it will have an impact. Most people in business (myself included) prefer to have a free a hand as possible in their work and this often collides with counter interests. So under light is the best way to move forward so that people can have confidence in the way that a decision like this is made.

      I offered my process in my post but I will restate it here. The opponents need to draft their alternative wording or their alternative ordinance along with their critique as to why the proposed ordinance will not work. The proponents need to either agree to the changes or lay out why they think the changes will undermine their goal along with defend their ordinance in terms of the criticism. The city should facilitate a public meeting of the two groups to share with the community the issues. Then the council needs to decide which approach to adopt if any.

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      1. John,

        I’m curious what sparks your interest if not the City’s zoning and its relation to encouraging the creation of affordable housing? I know you ran EOC for many years. I know you have been very involved in the protracted battles over zoning and the greenbelt for years. I know you are quite familiar with the Dake 99 Comp Plan, the Pfeil 01 Comp Plan and accompanying 03 zoning changes. I know you were in full support of the elimination of a large proportion of the City’s Special Development Areas and the creation of the restrictive Conservation Development District. I know in the past you were worried that “certain kinds” of high density residential development may not provide sufficient tax revenue for the City. I know that zoning and the greenbelt is typically the penultimate issue during City elections. Yet, remarkably, you have no strong opinions on this issue. You’re content to sit on the sidelines and criticize the process because its lacks for clarity and transparency.

        Not surprisingly, despite your admitted naivete to the nuts and bolts of the issue, you don’t “dismiss the idea that the economics of both providing affordable housing through an ordinance while protecting the character of downtown and the greenbelt may not be viable.” Am I to presume that’s a red line for you?

        Obviously, protecting downtown and the greenbelt is a completely subjective issue. Assuming the worst, is the greenbelt at risk if every last developable acre was developed with apartments instead of mcmansions? What if there were thousands of acres of constrained, undevelopable land and only a tiny fraction of the City’s open space is at risk of development? Is the character of downtown at risk if allowable building heights are increased by two stories? If a choice were to be made, would you protect downtown or the greenbelt? If you had to sacrifice, would you add shadows downtown and denser development in the greenbelt for meaningful amounts of affordable housing? Would you sacrifice an aesthetic for the moral good of providing for the less fortunate?

        For all the complaints about shadow-filled canyons downtown, people forget that density downtown was the plan. The City claimed that the lost capacity in the greenbelt could be absorbed downtown. Now, when the rubber meets the road, the question has become: Can we protect “the character of downtown AND the greenbelt?” Can the City have its cake and eat it too?

        The answer, quite simply, is no. If the problem of affordable housing is to be addressed, real sacrifices will have to be made. If you are offended by a shadow downtown or a garden apartment in the greenbelt can you stomach that blight for the promise of a slow crawl towards market harmony? If a developer profits in the process will your calculus change?

        History has proven that this City, driven primarily by NIMBY zealots and malleable politicians, will always choose the way of the aesthetic over the moral.

        Do you want proof positive that the current Inclusionary Zoning ordinance is toothless? Look at John Kaufmann on the sidelines, blissfully “ignorant,” grasping for transparency (wink, wink) safe in the knowledge no meaningful development will occur yea or nay.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Mr. Anderson,

      I don’t know you – but I think I love you 🙂

      John – one of the reasons I started the Saratogians for Sustainable Housing FB page was to get the ‘layman’ better informed on housing, including the IZ. I wanted to get people involved to beat back the NIMBY aspect here, and you can only do that by teaching people what it’s all about.

      The disaster you see at the council now is brought forth and lead by Chris, not Skip, Michele, John or even Joanne. I’ve tried talking to Chris as well as Harry and Geoff to no avail – they simply refuse to consider anything from me despite all of my work and research on this subject. In ANY legislation BOTH sides need to bend to get something done, and they just outright refuse (and changing something and handing it out right as a workshop starts is NOT how to inform people either). All that ‘twisting in turning’ is a political game on the behalf of the proposer and ‘proposees’, because they know they don’t have the votes for this to pass.

      Greg nailed it above. I want to point out one more thing on IZ’s and how they are SUPPOSED to work. I’ve had many people point out to me that Troy has an IZ that works very well, so it would work for Saratoga too. The reality however is this: land cost in Troy is a fraction of what it is in Saratoga, and Troy allows for 150 ft. on these projects, NOT 75 (OK – up to 84 ft. for this, another story IF approved, which usually is NOT by our current zoning). But that is not even close enough to helping. The developer can make it happen by going up, because for every story you go up it becomes cheaper to build. Developers here are stonewalled at every effort to do so, no matter what district it is in. Zoning, zoning, zoning…… It always comes down to zoning. And quite honestly? We ‘over-zoned’ here, which is what created this mess in the first place (look at this logically: if you have a 1000 acres of buildable land, and then tell people you can only build on 100 acres of it, what happens to the cost of that 100 acres??).

      I wish others had been listening in to my conversations with developers on this ordinance. They WANT to build housing here, and get stifled at every turn. The fault is not on their shoulders here, it’s on the city itself. And this ordinance won’t do a thing to help the problem – but in fact will probably make it even worse.

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      1. Mr Morris,

        Thank you for your kind words. You’re better off not knowing me. I’m not well liked within the Ivory walls of Saratoga Springs. Regardless, I applaud your efforts.

        As you know, in the age of the internet, anyone with a passing interest in anything can become sufficiently informed about a topic. If someone, at this late date, is still ignorant about inclusionary zoning, exclusionalry zoning, NIMBYism etc. they simply don’t care about Inclusionary zoning, excslusionary zoning, NIMBYism etc. These issues have been boiling over for decades.

        If you’re curious as to why Sustainable Saratoga is deaf to your concerns it’s because Geoff Bornemann was one of the main architects of our current zoning structure. In fact, its surprising Geoff would even be a part of this considering he testified in federal court about how the City’s current zoning was SO conductive to the production of affordable housing. How eliminating high density Special Development Areas in lieu of 2 acre rural residential was indeed a catalyst for the production of affordable housing. How the mass downzoning of hundreds of acres of land was an effort to spur housing and NOT just a shallow play to preserve open space. Given his expertise in zoning and concern for affordable housing its surprising he chose not collaborate with you on affordable housing and instead chooses to focus his energy on the scourge of mulch volcanoes and transparent zoning ploys.

        I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir but other readers should know that IZ can really only work in a robust development market. Sustainable Saratoga may be for a lot of things but robust development is not one of them. Does anybody really think that an organization dedicated to preserving the so-called “city in the country” would put forth legislation that would further develop the “city in the country?”

        FYI, the original IZ process in 03-05 was simply a tactic to insulate the City from litigation. As the process wore on the committee and Council members realized real sacrifices would have to be made to institute a workable ordinance. At some point a calculated decision was made to abandon the ordinance (which also had its own significant problems but was more robust than the current) and risk litigation and HUD attention. HUD was very proactive about affordable housing during the Obama years. While the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate for grantees was strengthened during this period, its unknown how Trump will treat the new requirements. Most seem to agree if he isn’t distracted by his ever growing list of problems he will likely roll back the Obama advances. Either way, you can bet the City’s calculus on this issue will, to some degree, be directed by the ordinance’s perceived effect on future litigation and HUD mandates than its success in actually creating affordable housing.

        Again, your knowledge and commitment to this issue is truly laudable. Best of luck in fighting the good fight.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I plead guilty to NOT being knowledgeable on the subject of affordable housing. So I am going to ask a dumb question: Where, in the city of Saratoga Springs, is there enough empty space to build a house/apartment house? It seems to me that every square inch of our city has already been occupied.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Henry,

      There are very few dry spots left. We have a viable spot but its zoned 2 acre. It should also be pointed out that there are literally thousands of untouched acres (primarily East of the Northway) that are constrained by wetlands. This whole notion of protecting the greenbelt from development is a false Narrative. The vast majority of the greenbelt is protected by natural means. What the city is saying is that its more important to save 1% of the land from development because that 1% is more important than housing.

      It also should be noted that the vast Great Bear Swamp east of the Northway lacks for stewardship. This is a tremendous natural resource that should be available to everyone in the City. Blocked culverts on Gilbert Rd. have drastically altered the hydrology of the area. The density of private septic systems further threatens the tributaries to Lake Lonely. Have you ever heard a peep about this from Sustainable Saratoga? I guess land and water aren’t in their wheelhouse.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. John’s mention of the Moore Hall saga brings up another issue to deal with and that is the routine “spot zoning” resulting for ZBA decisions. The same subset of board members consistently ignore the zoning ordinance and allow property owners to create additional habitable space, violate set-backs, etc. While they never justify their decisions I wonder if they think they are creating supply (and thus lowering prices) via these decisions. If so, they are naive as these property owners have either used the extra habitable space as tourist housing (i.e, track rentals and unregulated hotel rooms) or built expensive single family houses (see recently built place at 23 Murphy lane (non-conforming lot) that sold for $715,000). The point is that the current zoning ordinance is routinely and successfully challenged by property owners simply by bringing their non-conforming request in front of the ZBA. Once granted, they overstep the variance and if challenged by the City Inspector, flaunt the variance approval as justification, often getting away with it.

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    1. Dee dee,

      Your concerns are valid and, depending on your circumstance, I think I might have good news for you! If you have a particular scofflaw in mind and they live near John he will direct his selective outrage in a most magnificent manner. He will email individual board members and the building inspector. He’ll file FOIA requests. He’ll publish voluminous articles on the internet complete with pictures and maps and legends. He will even risk bodily harm for the sake of zoning equality. I promise you it will be a sight to behold.

      BUT

      And this is a big BUT

      If the scofflaw happens to be one of his old time political cronies you’re going to hear crickets.

      Even if they’re housing an illegal home office? Crickets

      Even if they have an illegal habitable space? Crickets

      Even if they have an illegal septic system in the green belt adjacent to a stream and a dec wetland? Crickets

      Even if they’re an officer of the court and they lied on their ZBA app and in front of the board? Crickets,Crickets, Crickets

      So, depending on the violator’s social circles, you may have a very good chance of employing a very effective (if not selective) advocate.

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    2. There was more to Moore Hall than meets the eye. That truly started out as an affordable housing project. The problem was the building was in a LOT worse shape than what was originally thought (not to mention asbestos removal and such). They did what they could on it. Had I known the building was that far gone I wouldn’t have supported saving it. But I did NOT support more condos there. In fact, I was disgusted to see all of the neighbors standing up and cheering that over affordable workforce housing.

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  5. Dave is correct in saying that the Spa Housing Ordinance is a wasted effort that will make no one happy. Basically, Saratoga is a victim of its own success, with inflated property values that preclude the type of independent development needed for an economically balanced population.

    However, there is plenty of land available within walking distance of downtown, which is where the affordable housing units should be located. The primary lots are on South Broadway, centered around the vacant Saratoga Diner, where a project is under consideration, and the remains of the Urban Renewal district, now wasted as parking lots west of the Congress Park Centre. Of course, these are privately owned and too valuable for low income housing, so the city would have to negotiate a purchase at market value or condemn them by eminent domain, plus (either way) come up with money to subsidize their acquisition, prior to selling or leasing them to a developer. Low income flats don’t have to be 2600 square feet — it’s not unusual to see 450 sf studio apartments (or smaller) in urban areas, which a single person can make livable.

    There are creative solutions to low income housing, such as Moshe Safte’s Habitat 67 in Montreal. That exact configuration may seem out of place here, but no more so than “The Moderne at Saratoga” or the current proposal for the diner site, which looks like an oversized car dealership. The city, by definition, is designed to be a multi-story environment. Creative planners and architects can see beyond the limits and still come up with an aesthetic solution that’s affordable for low income workers. The question is, does Saratoga Springs have the will to make this happen?

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    1. Me levy,

      You have a very sound grasp of this issue. What you may not know is that I believe in 2020 HUD will start employing the use of a mapping tool to determine concentrations of affordable housing and protected classes of people. Basically a segregation tool. Grantees, like the city, will come under scrutiny for perpetuating patterns of segregation for locating affordable housing in impacted areas. The area of South Broadway, due to the terraces and stonequist, is the location of the greatest concentration of affordable housing in the city. The purpose of the tool is to place new affordable housing outside impacted areas.

      You can probably assume how trump feels about this. Whether he’s spurred to action is anyone’s guess. Pretty sure there will plenty of local liberal dem trump supporters if he decides to dethang hud and scraps the regulation.

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