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Affordable housing remains high on Pine Plains’ list

PINE PLAINS — The Affordable Housing Task Force has been hard at work since it formed nearly a year ago, trying to decide what the town’s needs are and how exactly to meet those needs. Currently it’s reviewing the results from the recent U.S. census, along with numbers from a survey the task force sent out following a Feb. 17 Town Board meeting. Fifteen hundred questionnaires were sent out townwide; town Supervisor Gregg Pulver initially said he was hoping for a 20 percent return rate, but only about 8 percent of survey recipients sent them back, which amounts to just 136.The survey consisted of a single sheet of paper with roughly a half-dozen key questions. It asked residents if ownership or rental units were preferable; if single-family, town homes, two-family or larger units were preferable. It also asked if residents would like a new housing development to be created, existing homes to be rehabilitated, single-family homes to be converted into two or more family homes or for a developer to pay into a fund for town-sponsored housing.The survey also had a section inquiring if residents knew of family or friends who would like to live in Pine Plains but cannot afford to do so or cannot find the type of housing they need. Residents were also asked if they themselves rent or own their homes. Names of respondents were requested, but not required; residents were also asked if they would be interested in completing an extended survey.The goal of the survey was to keep it simple. Now the task force has to figure out its next step.Task force Chairman Jack McQuade is optimistic planner Bonnie Franson will expedite issues.“I think with Bonnie’s help, it will help the task force decide which option we want to do,” said McQuade, adding the group also has another meeting in store with county planner Anne Saylor. “I feel one of the functions of the task force is to reach out to the public,” said task force member and town Councilwoman Sandra David. “I feel there could be more of that. I feel with the survey a lot of people still don’t understand what affordable housing is.”Affordable housing provides for people who have incomes at or below local median incomes — like young families, teachers, nurses, volunteer workers and farmers. Monthly mortgage or rental costs would need to be affordable to those earning roughly 80 percent of a town’s median income to qualify as affordable housing.“I would like to see more reaching out to the fire department, schools and people eligible for affordable housing to find out what the needs are,” David added.There were some complications with the survey at one point, after concerns were raised that it was sent out in a disorderly fashion. The subject was raised at the Thursday, March 17, Town Board meeting by Carvel Project Development attorney Jennifer Van Tuyl, of Cuddy & Feder, LLP. She said her client, Carvel developer Alexander Durst, had expressed doubts the survey was conducted and distributed in an even-handed manner.“It appears some of the surveys were mailed out and others not, or they were mailed out at different times,” she said. “That in itself could be a taint on the survey that can’t be fixed.”“The survey was to get a general idea [of where people stand on affordable housing],” David said at the time. “It’s just to give us an idea of what the needs are. This survey was just sort of the beginning of reaching out to the community.”At the most recent board meeting, Pulver addressed current concerns about the task force’s objectives and obstacles. He said Attorney to the Town Warren Replansky will be able to answer many of the town’s and residents’ questions, along with input from both Saylor and Franson.

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