WATKINS GLEN, NY (WSKG) — Officials in Schuyler County celebrated a new supportive and affordable housing complex on Tuesday. The $10 million facility includes a day care and 34 apartments for families with low incomes.
Glen Lake Apartments opened to residents in February. Rent there is fixed to household size and income so that it does not exceed 30 percent of a tenant’s earnings.
Faith Madigan moved in last month. She is in a wheelchair and said it is difficult to find places to live in Schuyler County that meet her physical needs.
“Some of the places they have around here are not handicap accessible, but this one is,” Madigan said.
That way, she could reach the washer and dryer when doing laundry, and her kitchen sink.
The facility includes six apartments for people with disabilities through which tenants can access supportive services offered by the Arc of Chemung-Schuyler, which provides opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Watkins Glen Housing Authority and Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services partnered to develop the facility. Johanna Anderson, Executive Director of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, said income eligibility for the apartments ranges between 30 percent and 80 percent of the area median income.
Resident Denise Faller said she waited for six months to get an apartment in the building.
“It was like, I had to work with Section 8 and everything but finally I got everything, what I wanted now and more to come,” Faller said.
She pays roughly $666 per month for her two-bedroom apartment. Faller said she moved there from Hector, also in Schuyler County, with her 6-year-old son for a fresh start.
“From my apartment, you can see the lake, and it’s awesome,” Faller added. “Like, the windows we have in the apartment, they’re huge. I always dreamed about that.”
Faller said she feels safe at Glen Lake. Her apartment is a short walk to downtown Watkins Glen and is connected to public transit.
The complex also hosts the new location of My Place, a day care previously based in Montour Falls. New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has been an advocate for child care, attended the opening on Tuesday and said the facility met working families’ needs.
“I understand the stress that families around here, particularly during this pandemic, when kids were home from school and parents needed extra help,” Hochul said. “A child care center here, it just shows that this is an enlightened project, that you understand the needs of the complete, entire community.”
The day care is open to any family, not just those in the apartment complex. According to Kristine Morseman, Executive Director of My Play, the day care increased its enrollment by 35 percent in its new location.
Funding for the development came included $7.5 million in federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, $2.6 million in subsidies from New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), and $824,000 in capital funds from the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), as well as $500,000 from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) administered by HCR.
Schuyler County, however, still needs more affordable housing like Glen Lake, Anderson explained. According to a 2019 analysis of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Schuyler County has a surplus of low-income and very low-income housing, for which people with incomes greater than 30 percent and less than 80 percent of the area median income would qualify.
But the analysis also highlighted the county lacks affordable and available housing for extremely low-income households, which earn 30 percent or less than the area median income. It would need 145 extremely low-income housing units to meet the need.
Anderson said the price of housing construction spiked during the pandemic, which makes filling the gap more challenging.
“We’ve seen a lot of the subsidies that go into building these sorts of affordable housing complexes, they’ve been depleted,” she added.
Anderson said more and better quality housing is especially necessary for people working in Schuyler County’s tourism sector.
“For the people who are working at the wineries, in the schools and at the local village facilities,” she said. “We really wanted to make sure that people could be here year-round and this would continue to be a vibrant community.”
Anderson said her organization is looking to start a second project in Schuyler County. It is also developing affordable homes in Tioga, Seneca, Cayuga and Tompkins counties.