Task force sets its sights on affordable housing
PINE PLAINS — A number of things resulted from the town’s adoption of new zoning laws last year — an Affordable Housing Task Force among them. The group formed during the summer as phase one in the town’s move toward creating affordable housing for those who live and work in the town of Pine Plains.
“The first phase we’re in is the development phase, the planning phase, and we decided to use the term ‘task force’ to distinguish it from the other two phases,” said town Councilwoman Sandra David, who serves as liaison between the Town Board and the task force. “My goal for this first phase is really the ultimate goal of affordable housing, to have housing in town so that middle-income people can afford to live in the town they grew up in or that they work in. That’s the goal, and we know from Millerton how tricky that can be.”
David was referring to Millerton Overlook, an affordable housing project in neighboring Millerton that has been in the works for seven years and still hasn’t broken ground. The program has been plagued by hardships and mired in controversy, with issues ranging from politics to financing, poor planning to heated community backlash.
The Pine Plains Affordable Housing Task Force Chairman Jack McQuade said he’s hoping his town won’t encounter similar resistance when asked if he was concerned Pine Plains residents would react with fear and vitriol.
“That’s a good question that I can’t really answer, and maybe our survey will help to answer that,” he said. “Now we’re not talking about low-income housing, we’re talking about affordable housing, for medium-income folks, like town employees, rescue workers, firefighters, teachers, nurses — those people who want to live in Pine Plains but can’t afford to.”
McQuade went on to describe a short survey the group has created that will be mailed out next month to all town residents, asking them their feelings about affordable housing and how they think it should be implemented.
“Hopefully we’ll get the kind of feedback we need in order to proceed,” he said. “It’s complicated because there are a lot of issues associated with affordable housing, but we’re learning.”
One of those issues is determining the median income in the town. According to the chairman, the median income for a family of three in 2010 was $61,837, but David warns the figure is only an estimate and once the new census numbers come out the group will have more to work with. Figures were not available regarding the median home price, according to both David and McQuade. Regardless of the numbers, the fundamental purpose of the task force remains the same, and McQuade said his motivation for volunteering with the group is likely similar to others’.
“I would like for my sons to eventually come back here and live, and I’m just wondering if they’ll ever be able to afford it,” he said. “My youngest son is in college right now and when he decides he wants to settle down I would really like for him to come back here, but I’m concerned he won’t be able to afford to live here and I think a lot of parents who live in Pine Plains share that feeling.”
There are eight members on the task force, plus David as liaison. They meet once a month, on differing days. The group is working with both planner Bonnie Franson and the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s learning the basics, and that’s important.
“I think it’s more of a learning process than a surprise, and we’re just beginning to get the information we need,” McQuade said. “We’re trying to process it and make recommendations to the Town Board based on the knowledge that we’re gaining.”
And that’s one of its main tasks, said David, who stressed the group is strictly advisory. After the initial phase is completed, the next phase “will come down the road,” David said. “After we find our way, [there will be] construction and selection and then the last phase will be after the laws are written up. It’s the administration of how all this comes about.”
All said, there’s much work to be done, but the task force is clear in its vision.
“We want to be an inclusive community and to provide for the social and economic diversity of the town, if we can,” McQuade said.