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Saratoga Springs Council Votes To Explore Affordable Housing Proposal

Last week, the group Sustainable Saratoga introduced a zoning amendment that would require new apartment developments to dedicate at least 20 percent of housing stock to “affordable” units.

Sustainable Saratoga chair Harry Moran told WAMC at the time that many local residents are being 

priced out of their city.

“Most of the inventory of housing that’s been created in the last 10 years is not affordable to the vast majority of city residents or the many people who come into the city to work,” said Moran.

As walkable Saratoga Springs remains a desirable place to live, some of its skyrocketing rents have been attributed to the influx of workers from nearby GlobalFoundries.

On Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to consider the proposal under a measure brought forward by Commissioner of Accounts John Franck.

Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the type of program being proposed has been endorsed by her appointed housing task force.

“This is hopefully going to be a partnershp when it’s all said and done. I’d like to see to it benefit the builders and developers through various incentives. And I think it would be very refreshing to have the developers partner with the city as we move forward with the specific language of this proposal,” said Yepsen.

At the meeting, Yepsen handed out a letter dated August 1st from the SaratogaBuilders Association that said solving the housing affordability issue will require a “creative approach.”

Barry Potoker, Executive Director of the SBA, said the builders are eager to identify sites for workforce or affordable housing.

“That’s what we would love to do and help with,” said Potoker.

With all the recent development of luxury apartments and condos in the Saratoga Springs region, Potoker says it is a misconception that builders only seek to construct luxury housing.

“It’s not the builders just want to build expensive homes. It doesn’t work that way,” said Potoker.

But the council’s willingness to explore the zoning amendment was met with some skepticism.

Saratoga Springs resident Bonnie Sellers reminded the council that the amendment proposed by Sustainable Saratoga is not unlike a similar proposal offered up in 2006 that failed to get a vote. Sellers pointed out some of the concerns 10 years ago.

“Citizens objected because this proposal would result in larger buildings, more density, city hall management with increased staffing and costs, and the potential for higher taxes. And having the city hall support large developers in competition with current rentals,” said Sellers.

The city will seek an advisory opinion on the proposed zoning change from the city and county planning board.

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