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Pricing Out Locals in This Red Hot Housing Market

Pricing Out Locals in This Red Hot Housing Market

The world is trying to stand back up again after a whirlwind of uncertainty for the past year. New York is now at a point where COVID-19 cases are at a record low and the economy is turning on the button for recovery mode. Shops and restaurants are reopening, restrictions and guidelines are being lifted and people are adjusting to their new reality.

The Hudson Valley has experienced a wave of new changes of its own. The housing market, for one, is experiencing a shift where it’s now considered a hot market and the people taking the bait on all these properties for sale are not long-time residents of the Hudson Valley.

At the start of the pandemic, when the state-wide lockdown began, people were forced to stay home and for many, that shifted the way they wanted to live, especially where. Suddenly, people who spent years living and working in the busy city were confined to their tiny apartments while working remotely.  With many Hudson Valley properties being considerably lower in price than NYC ones, people who could afford it began to take advantage of the lower housing prices, trading micro-sized apartments for larger homes with yards—why wouldn’t they choose to save money and live in the serene countryside while the world is on lockdown?

“Being sheltered in, you don’t see what’s going on in the city. Once I finally got out and was able to walk around, there were a ton of new people living here,” says City of Beacon Councilmember Terry Nelson.

Nelson has been a resident of Beacon for 12 years and also serves as a member of the Beacon Arts board. He goes on to explain that there were problems within the housing market in Beacon even before the global pandemic emerged and trying to solve those issues during these unprecedented times has only exacerbated them.

Since the start of the pandemic, people have been fearful of when or if their next paycheck would come and whether they would they be able to pay their monthly bills.  Many wondered if they would receive unemployment benefits and if it would be enough for them to continue living in their current homes.  All the while, people with six-figure incomes wanting to get out of the city are buying properties with cash and essentially inflating the housing market.

Being that the Hudson Valley is now a seller’s market, homeowners are deciding if they want to sell their property or rent out what they can for long-term or short-term renters. The short-term rental platform Airbnb has noted more people are searching for places to stay in the Hudson Valley and Catskills by 40%. Property values and taxes are rising, but there are still some that don’t want to sell their homes and face the financialization of real estate. The financialization of real estate is when people buy property as an investment and not as a place to call home and partake in a community.

This is happening in cities all over the region—Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Hudson—you name it. The issue with the financialization of housing overcoming these cities is the hyper-gentrification that closely follows.

“The real estate market begins to capitalize on the profile of the place. This happened in a really major way in Hudson. You could actually see properties being sold to people who don’t really know the city other than ‘it’s a hip, artsy town,’” says City of Hudson Councilmember Rebecca Wolff.

Gentrification has been making an imprint on cities like Hudson, Beacon, and Kingston for several years now. This pandemic just kicked it into high gear.

Wolff explains that the proximity from NYC and the train right into the city has made the business community of Hudson committed to tourism and considers it as the main economy builder for many years now. “Once that became a clear driver then there was more of an effort to promote the city and that raised the profile in a lot of people’s minds, especially people looking to get out of New York City,” Wolff says.

Fortunately, there are locals trying to make sure that people who currently live here can continue to. Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition, HCHC, is an initiative that does just that. They are a Black-led group that empowers public housing and low-income tenants to fight for housing justice.

“Gentrification and the displacement that comes with it is the issue of the Hudson Valley. Many of us who have only known the Hudson Valley to be our home are facing the harsh reality that it may not be home for much longer,” says Managing Director Michael Gattine-Suarez. “In Hudson and Catskill, properties are being bought out and made into boutique hotels while other properties that have gone unnoticed for years are now getting attention from buyers representing companies from Westchester and NYC. You can’t walk down Warren St. in Hudson without feeling out of place now.”

A common attribute to most of these areas is the thriving art scene. Wolff says it has created a cycle and the presence of artists gives realtors a chance to sell properties for being trendy. Wolff experienced this in Chelsea, Manhattan where she grew up. Today, the rent in Chelsea averages at $4k a month for a one-bedroom.

“I wish that every city in the Hudson Valley would learn from what’s happened in Hudson because basically, we have no housing left for low-income residents at all,” says Wolff.

Luckily, there is awareness of the issue for locals and low to middle-income households. The NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program is being introduced to a few counties including Dutchess, Ulster, and Columbia. This provides income-qualified renters who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic with 12 months back rent and up to three months future rent. Beacon City Council is working on getting the rent stabilization law passed. Hudson has several projects in the works to support affordable housing and is passing an inclusionary zoning law to promote affordability. HCHC provides tenants with resources and answers to help the community members that are struggling with housing. It’s not going to be all solved overnight, but there are people actively working to make sure affordable housing is a priority.

“There is no other way to put it, we are at risk of seeing the Hudson Valley become beyond unaffordable for the majority of people who call it home to remain here,” says Guttine-Suarez.

Inevitably, the pandemic has brought on challenges and hardships to most people’s vision of normality. Now that the Hudson Valley is such a popular place to live, local governments and organizations are working diligently to ensure protection for those that call this place home. Being aware of the changes surrounding us can only help to better the community for all of us to live comfortably and affordably.

Victoria is a freelance writer in the Hudson Valley where she spends her time either finding new ways to bring the community together or hiking the local Catskill mountains.

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