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Study To Probe Housing Instability In Schenectady

Lucas Willard

A new study aims to take a closer look at the causes of housing instability and insecurity in Schenectady, where some neighborhoods suffer persistent poverty.

The Housing Matters Sustainable Housing Study was kicked off Friday at Habitat for Humanity in downtown Schenectady.

The six-to-eight-week study seeks to shed more light on how transient and substandard housing affects job retention, performance in school, and health.

Dr. John Polimeni, an economics professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, said such a study has never been conducted in Schenectady before.

"We will be working in the Hamilton Hill, Mont Pleasant, Central State Street, Goose Hill, and Bellevue neighborhoods. It's an opportunity for residents of these neighborhoods to provide their feedback on housing in the city and to help assist in the neighborhood revitalization that's occurring," said Polimeni.

The $28,000 grant to fund the pilot study is from the Schenectady Foundation. Executive Director Robert Careau said the organization jumped at the chance to launch the study.

"Because we don't really have that kind of base of information that I think we all need to make good solid policy decisions, and strategic decisions, about how we're going to address the housing issues in the City of Schenectady," said Careau.

The Housing Matters group says Schenectady is facing a housing crisis. An aging housing stock and glut of "obsolete" houses are met with an estimated 10 percent abandonment rate.

The idea is that people facing housing insecurity are more vulnerable.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara...

"And many are just one unexpected  event away from illness, a layoff, things like a drop in work hours. These all can cause housing insecurity or cause one to become homeless," said Santabarbara.

Mayor Gary McCarthy, who has been criticized by campaign opponent Roger Hull over the state of the city’s neighborhoods, said the study joins ongoing work by the city and the Center for Technology and Government to step up code enforcement and data-driven policing.

"And this will integrate and put in place a platform to deal with some of those fundamental issues so that we're better able to manage public resources and really produce real results for individuals and families," said McCarthy.  

The study will be carried out by the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Better Neighborhoods, Inc., and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Surveryors will canvas neighborhoods with IPads loaned by the Ellis Hospital UMatter team. Participants in the survey will receive a $20 gift card to Price Chopper supermarkets. 

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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