Affordable Housing Stood Out as Recurring Theme of 2023 ‘Putnam County Day’

Fr. Left: NY Assemb. M. Slater, NY Sen. P. Harckham, Putnam Cty. Exec. K. Byrne, HGAR Dir. of Gov. Affairs A. Roithmayr
From left, New York State Assemblyman Matt Slater, New York State Senator Pete Harckham, Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne and HGAR Director of Government Affairs Alexander Roithmayr PHOTO BY JOHN VECCHIOLLA

CARMEL—More than 100 people filled the banquet room at the Putnam County Golf Course recently for HGAR’s annual Putnam County Day. Invited legislative guests included New York State Senator Pete Harckham, New York State Assemblyman Matt Slater and Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne. Commercial brokers from Houlihan Lawrence were also invited to speak.

While it’s no surprise that the lack of inventory and rising mortgage interest rates are keeping the housing market at bay, the recurring theme of the annual Putnam County Day seemed to concentrate on affordable housing—and the lack of it in our region. “There’s definitely an affordability crisis in this area,” said Harckham. “Seniors can’t afford to stay in their homes, while young people and service workers can’t afford to buy them.”

Harckham also discussed how school taxes are burdening current homeowners.

“We’re proposing $180 million in education funding to relieve some of the taxes,” he added. “We also want the governor to become more involved with local government to see what they need.”

County Executive Byrne joined Harckham in calling for more collaboration between state and local agencies.

“There’s definitely a need for non-partisan efforts to make life more affordable here in the Hudson Valley,” said Byrne. “This is a great place to live, and our population has grown since the pandemic when people began leaving the city. But now with housing inventory so low, that’s creating challenges.”

The group also examined ideas of rezoning land to convert vacant office buildings to residential units and updating the accessory dwelling unit laws. All agreed on the need for more transit-oriented development that would allow for residential housing near Metro-North train stations.

Slater, the former Town Supervisor of Yorktown, touted planned developments there that are designed to bring in more affordable housing options. “We recognized the need to diversify our housing stock,” he said. “Each municipality is different and has its own set of challenges so it’s important to let local towns and villages take the lead on these.”

Plans for a boutique hotel, mixed use development at the former Kmart and Soundview School properties are already under consideration in Yorktown. “One size doesn’t fill all and the state can’t tell local municipalities what’s best for them if they’ve never been there.”

Byrne added that more commercial developments in the area will add to the tax base, and mentioned the Brewster Yards project, a proposed sports and events destination. The facility will feature 828,500 square feet of baseball, softball and multi-purpose turf usage. This would include nine fields, concession stands, bathrooms and support buildings. In addition, Brewster Yards would feature a 45,000-square-foot indoor training facility.

Harckham assured Byrne that he and Slater will be there to help them. “We can be the squeaky wheel in Albany,” he said. “Let us know when you’re having issues with state agencies, and while we may not be able to determine the outcome, we can help make connections.”

Tom La Perch, Associate Broker with  Houlihan Lawrence’s Commercial Division. has also served as Chair of the Town of South Planning Board for 23 years. He, along with Steve Salomone, Houlihan Lawrence’s Director of Real Estate Investments, expressed some caution for the commercial market. “I think we’re entering a very uncertain time,” admitted Salomone. “Next year is a Presidential election and the economy could be difficult with investors possibly pulling back. Lending may be restricted as well.”

Salomone noted that many of the commercial deals are now being driven by cash or seller financing. “Of course, cash is king, but 90% of the calls I get are those asking if the seller will provide financing,” he said. “I think sellers also need to change their expectations or the market could remain stagnant.”

Both Salomone and LaPerch discussed the need for adapting now-vacant commercial properties to residential, recreational or medical use. “Warehousing is another usage and Putnam County has one of the largest areas of warehouses and outdoor storage for parking trucks and other equipment,” added LaPerch.

Other adaptive reuse projects under consideration include converting the former Lord & Taylor at the Danbury Mall into residential units and turning the former Christmas Tree Shop at Poughkeepsie’s South Hill’s Mall into the Hudson Valley Pickleball & Golf Center.

The Village of Brewster is reviewing the Brewster Crossings development of 408 rental apartments, a brewery, café, shops and a 500-car parking garage, and in Patterson, plans for Patterson Crossings, a 400,000-square-foot retail center on Route 311, are moving along as well.

Along the county’s Main Streets, both agreed that smaller footprints are in demand.

“Retail is not dead, but just resized,” said Salomone. “Main Streets are coming back, and we’re starting to see a lot of new restaurants as well. There’s definitely a resurgence in small businesses.”

The Putnam County Day program also featured updates on HGAR initiatives presented by HGAR President Tony D’Anzica and HGAR Chief Executive Officer Lynda Fernandez and OneKey MLS by HGAR Chief Strategy Officer Gary Connolly.

Putnam County Day was sponsored by Robison, Prosperity Mortgage, and Mr. Inspections.

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