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More asking for aid to add affordable housing

More asking for aid to add affordable housing

Funding requests for affordable housing rehabilitation and development increased by 25 percent state

Funding requests for affordable housing rehabilitation and development increased by 25 percent statewide compared with last year’s applications, according to the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

Applications for funding are submitted at the beginning of each year.

Despite the state’s dire fiscal situation, an official at the division said on Wednesday that an increase in funding from the new federal stimulus bill may help localities pursue projects to develop affordable housing.

And under a new approach by the division, officials are expecting to get a better handle on the specific needs of communities and regions.

A report issued by the division on Wednesday identifies several issues that officials in the Mohawk Valley are facing when it comes to the need for affordable housing in Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Hamilton, Herkimer and Oneida counties.

To be considered “affordable,” the general rule for housing is that residents should spend up to one-third of their annual income.

The region is replete with homes considered affordable, with historic architecture and scenic beauty, according to the report.

But with historic architecture comes more complicated and often more expensive rehabilitation work. That and the need for competent property management and safe, affordable rental units are among challenges officials cited during meetings with state representatives, according to the report.

An aging population and migration of younger, working families from the area has left many senior citizens in homes they can’t afford to fix up.

And for many owners looking to rehabilitate properties and make them available to rent, the cost of fixing up these historic properties is often insurmountable even with available grants, the report says.

But according to Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen, a new approach by the division is bringing the plight of the state’s diverse communities home to administrators in Albany and New York City.

Before these on-site visits began in 2007, officials at the office had never visited these areas or local officials to see first-hand what they were issuing grants for, VanAmerongen said.

“It’s amazing to me that no one at the division in the past thought it was necessary to do this. I don’t know how we can sit in Albany or New York City and make policy,” VanAmerongen said.

VanAmerongen said the ratio of grant applications to available funding sometimes reaches five requests to one grant.

With the current fiscal crunch affecting people nationwide, there is the expectation that developers will be looking to build more rental apartments people can afford to live in than big homes they can’t afford.

“We think the demand for rental housing is actually going to rise,” VanAmerongen said.

It’s unclear yet exactly how much money is coming in, but VanAmerongen said a boost in federal support for housing is included in the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama this week.

“We are going to realize a substantial infusion of federal dollars into our housing programs,” VanAmerongen said.

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