Last week the Lloyd Town Board continued discussing the Affordable Housing Law that has been in effect since 2010, but to date, the town has failed to have any developer provide a single affordable unit.
Councilman Joe Mazzetti reminded the board that previously they discussed that Mountainside Woods developer David Weinberg has built and sold market rate homes in the $450,000 to $600,000 price range on lots where he was required to build affordable units.
Mazzetti said recently Building Department Director Dave Barton had informed the board that they would have to direct him to have Weinberg comply with the affordable housing law, starting with having the developer identify 16 new lots where he would build affordable units. Mazzetti pointed out that Weinberg “took it upon himself” to go ahead and build and sell market rate homes on previously identified affordable lots that were listed on his approved site plan.
Mazzetti provided two resolutions to the board, one to direct Dave Barton to obtain a map of 16 lots from Weinberg that he would use for affordable housing and to submit it to the Town Board by their July 5, 2023 meeting. Councilman Lenny Auchmoody was the sole no vote on this resolution.
Mazzetti put forth a second resolution directing Barton not to issue any building permits for any lots designated as affordable until a review of the plans, with an approved site plan, have been deemed to meet the affordable housing criteria. No building permit will be issued until after the Town Board reviews the information and confirms the dwelling meets the criteria for affordable housing.
Councilman John Fraino characterized this second resolution as selective enforcement and, “his attorney would have a field day with this.” He said this would open up a liability for the town, “and I don’t think we would win that argument.”
Mazzetti said this second resolution would prevent a developer from building on affordable lots without the Town Board knowing it.
“What we don’t want to happen is the builder saying it’s too late, I built on all of the lots,” he said.
This second resolution failed to pass by a vote of 3-2 with John Fraino, Dave Plavchak and Lenny Auchmoody voting no and Mike Guerriero and Joe Mazzetti voting yes.
During the discussion period, Mazzetti pointed out to Plavchak that, “either you have to abolish or suspend the law, but right now you have a law and you have people [Weinberg] who agreed to do something and you have a law that you’re not enforcing...It’s not fair to the taxpayer. It’s not fair to the community that they were promised houses for our workforce and they’re not getting them and the developer is getting 16 additional lots that he wasn’t entitled to.”
Plavchak insisted that Mazzetti is incorrect on this point. He said he reviewed this development with Barton; “That was a conservation subdivision with 162 lots and he gave us back land to get to the conservation subdivision and he did not get extra density. He would have gotten 162 lots whether there was affordable housing in it or not; why he agreed to do them [but] he agreed. We saw that in the developer’s agreement.”
Plavchak calculated the affordable housing formula for applicants, noting that today the median household income in Ulster County is $71,040 and 85% of that is $60,000, and putting housing costs at 30% equates to $18,115 per year, or $1,509 per month. He said this is all one can spend on housing through the current affordable housing law. He said the $1,509 figure includes the mortgage, taxes, utilities and insurance. He said this means that the biggest mortgage anyone can have according to the law is $131,000, assuming a down payment of $20,000; “So the most house you could get out of that is $150,000 and I don’t know where in that particular subdivision you’re going to put a $150,000 house or if one could be built for that much. So that’s why we have to talk about the law as it’s written and either repeal it and write a better one or figure out what our workforce housing or our affordable housing objectives are.”
Plavchak acknowledged that in the past, housing projects have been built and the affordable component was not enforced. He said he is OK with not issuing the last eight permits to Weinberg until this issue is resolved. Mazzetti challenged that, saying Weinberg is required to replace the affordable lots where he built market-rate units with other lots in his project. Plavchak said he is not ready to take that action, which prompted Mazzetti to say that Plavchak does not want to follow the affordable housing law.
Mazzetti said because most of the town’s employees make about $70,000 and one bedrooms now rent for $1,500, he urged the board to make affordable housing work. He said he understands that the current law as written may have issues, “but what I am saying is right now you have a builder who entered into a contract that designated 16 lots where he was to build affordable houses and he agreed to it, and then it says very clearly in the agreement that he can substitute [lots] with approval from the Building Department Director, which he did not get and took it on his own to change the lots and sold them for over market value.”
Plavchak questioned why Mazzetti let this happen, with Mazzetti explaining, “we did not know that he did this but now we know and that is why I am motioning this resolution because we have a law and we need to enforce it.”