Woodstock Housing Committee Prepares Plan

The Woodstock Housing Committee adapted to COVID-19 and continued to engage with hundreds of local citizens to assess housing needs and possible solutions. The group summarized its accomplishments in a year-end report presented to city council at its regular meeting on December 14.

Since the city passed a moratorium on short-term and transitional housing construction this summer, the housing committee has worked with the zoning review committee and others to find more affordable housing opportunities. Committee member Deborah DeWan identified planning consultant Nan Stolzenburg and helped the city secure a grant to retain her services. Stolzenburg will write code language to help update the city’s zoning law.

Under the recommendation of Supervisor Bill McKenna, a group consisting of members of the Planning Council, the Zoning Appeal Board, the Zoning Review Committee and the Housing Committee was formed. “So members of these various committees were brought together and we struck a working group to work with Nan Stolzenburg and Deborah DeWan and I am the co-chairs,” said Kirk Ritchey, who is also Housing Committee Co. -Chair. “And we’ve been working the last six months on this effort and we’ve made great strides. “

The housing working group will brief city council on January 11 on its work.

Funding is important

“This year, the opportunity presented with the funds from the US bailout plan was only a big surprise, and we hope to be very useful in supporting the goals of the housing committee to plan the infrastructure so that we can build the ‘next year,’ Housing Committee co-chair Susan Goldman said.

City council has so far allocated about $ 100,000 in bailout funds to affordable housing programs, but Goldman has stressed the importance of having continued funding in the city’s budget. “And so we proposed during this year’s budget hearings to have a housing line in the future. Not just this one-time money from the US bailout, but other funds, ”she said.

“And to that end, Deborah and Bill… discussed with (State Sen.) Michelle Hinchey’s office about developing a community preservation law for Woodstock that would include housing finance… and these are funds that would come from the sale of properties and would be applied to Woodstock in the way the Woodstockers decide they should be applied. “

Goldman said the committee was also in contact with the office of Congressman Antonio Delgado.

Take inventory of available land

An inventory and site group is studying what land is readily available to build affordable housing, Ritchey said. “Initially, we were looking for land owned by the city and we were doing feasibility studies. A few months ago there was a list going around on social media, the same list we were using, and it was a list of some 33, 36 sites, and if you’re going to see the details of that list, the most are used. There is a water tower on it or a parking lot… There are very few sites that… could possibly be built.

But the ongoing exchanges between the Housing Committee and the Housing Working Group revolve around the mapping of building land, he noted.

Awareness adapted to the COVID epidemic

“We know what happens when people offer accommodation. Suddenly, people are coming out of the woods to oppose it. We want to have a group of people who feel positive about housing in the future, and who we can call on, so we’ve had a great outreach plan. And then there was COVID, and we had to change, ”Goldman said. “We ended last year with one brand, Woodstock Community Homes. We have the little house on the corner (of Mill Hill and Rock City roads) and the banner, and we were going to be raising awareness through a lot of events… “We pivoted. We started in February with a big Zoom event co-sponsored with Land Conservancy, Woodstock Transition and Woodstock Jewish Congregation. It drew over 400 viewers and we had a lot of people on our mailing list at that time. “

Social media posts kept people engaged throughout the year.

“Over 100 people took their photo with one of our posters both at the library fair and at the farm festival events, and that was a good thing, and then we posted them on the media. social and people bring their friends and that’s created a lot of traffic for our social media page, ”Goldman said. These photos have garnered 1.6 million views.

“We had to get into social media because again COVID kept us from being face to face and having community meetings,” Ritchey said. “We had a whole community reunion that we were planning for in the spring at the community center, and it was like that, and it evaporated right in front of us.”

Ritchey thanked Housing Committee member Urana Kinlen for taking charge of social media and posting to Facebook and Instagram. About 3,400 people read an article on state accessory housing unit legislation, a presentation on the uses of the Lasher Funeral Home property received 3,100 viewers, and an interview with a business owner locale received 1,700 views.

A housing plan for Woodstock

Catherine Tegan, a new member of the Housing Committee, has started to draft a plan that incorporates housing inventory, demographics, the city’s current situation and its future direction. It will also discuss steps that have already been taken, including a recently launched house-sharing program.

“Because [home share is] existing inventory in our city. It’s homes that we could harness and expand opportunities and fruits at hand, as you might call it, and connect people to that. And there are other initiatives like ADU (secondary housing) and such that we can do. But the problem with the housing plan is that it will be an extension of the overall plan, ”said Ritchey.

Three main objectives

“We are guided by three main objectives as a committee… creating a permanent avenue to varied housing initiatives is one, facilitating the creation of new and renovated housing that is sustainable, both for rental and purchase, and to increase the impact of our work and resources in collaborating with the county, ”Goldman said. “So, at the start of next year, 2022, we’re focusing primarily, initially on the housing plan, collecting data.”

The committee has an intern who helps collect the data and may need additional help.

“Because there is a lot of data, the complete data of the plan, the inventory of it is eons ago, 2016, 2017, and we need to update everything, both the demographics and the housing inventory, ”Goldman said.

“We’re also exploring the possibility of a rental registry and what that would do for the city, and maybe the county would. This of course requires collaboration with the assessor’s office.

McKenna thanked the committee for their efforts. “It looks like we are making great strides here,” he said. “I appreciate the efforts and look forward to working with Senator Hinchey and Assembly Member (Kevin) Cahill to put this funding stream in place, which I think would be of great benefit to the community.” , did he declare.

“I am very impressed with the work of the Housing Committee, no surprise knowing who is all on it, but very impressed with the vision, the direction, the progress,” said City Councilor Laura Ricci.

“Our city is so lucky. We have really great volunteers and this committee is one example, ”said Councilor Reggie Earls.

“And I love that you all work well together and I just wanted to say thank you.”

Councilor-elect Bennet Ratcliff also praised the committee for its work.

“I just wanted to tell the committee, what an amazing job you have done with the process of being a committee. I have attended several of your events. I participated in your social networks and each time, it is clear and targeted.

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