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Housing for All

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Statement on Affordable Housing

Housing for All is a coalition of housing and human service providers, community activists and concerned citizens who are looking at ways to preserve and expand the supply of affordable rental housing in the City of Albany.

Albany has a serious shortage of housing that is affordable for people with limited income. Yes, there are public and subsidized housing developments and programs in Albany, but most have very long waiting lists. The Albany Section 8 waiting list, for example, averages five years and is now closed to new applicants.

“Limited income” doesn’t mean just the very poor, but also people who work in full-time jobs in retail, food services, health care, human services, and other jobs. They are hard pressed to find apartments that will not make them severely rent-burdened, i.e. paying over 50% of their income on housing. According to federal guidelines and housing industry standards, “affordable” is defined as housing that costs 30% or less of a person’s monthly income. That means that a sales clerk earning $24,000 a year should pay no more than $600 a month for rent, a figure that is unaffordable for over 6,000 renters in Albany – and yet a figure so low it is almost impossible to find.

The shortage of affordable housing is a leading cause of family homelessness. Working men and women who need time off for illness or family emergencies, or who simply have to cover a raise in their rent, become trapped in a cycle of homelessness that must include their children as well.

The problem plagues communities throughout the country – so addressing this crisis involves not only a financial willingness by federal, state and local governments to allocate more funding, but also a commitment on all levels of government to promote policies that expand and preserve affordable housing.

Housing for All is urging Albany lawmakers and city planners to make this a priority for our city. We are encouraging openness to creative approaches. For example, a modest step in the right direction occurred last year, when Albany added an inclusionary zoning requirement to its zoning reforms. This calls for developers of 50 or more units who benefit from tax breaks or other incentives to set aside 5% of those units to persons earning no more than 100% of the city’s median household income.

There are other approaches we can explore: creating a housing trust fund capitalized by designated sources of revenue (like a real estate transaction fee); or developing limited-equity cooperatives (common in Canadian and European cities); or strengthening tenant protections. These are but a few of the actions cities across the country are exploring as a way to make their housing accessible for people with limited incomes.

We ask that you or your organization support our efforts to make Albany’s rental market affordable. Citizens who contribute to the fabric of our city through their work and civic involvement should not have to suffer the insecurity of paying rent above their means.

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Need Assistance?

All requests for assistance are handled through the Housing Hotline. Tenants seeking assistance can reach our Housing Hotline at (518) 436-8997 extension 3. A housing counselor will return calls in the order they are received.  We appreciate your patience while we respond to high call volumes. Requests and questions can also be sent to hotline@unitedtenantsalbany.org.

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