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Keene Committee Shares Community Housing Survey Results | News, Sports, Jobs

KEENE — The Keene Housing Task Force released the results of a community housing survey on Tuesday, which showed city residents believe there is a need for more rental and housing affordable all year round.

Task Force member and Councilor Teresa Cheetham-Palen shared the results of the Task Force’s community housing survey at Keene Town Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday. While she didn’t express surprise at many of the findings — which she said were consistent with recent studies by Essex County — the task force also presented several possible solutions to the housing need. more affordable in Keene, including the implementation of a voluntary act restriction. program and construction of a new affordable housing development on Gilmore Hill Road.

The Keene Housing Task Force was created last summer as a guideline to the town’s strategic plan, which was adopted in June 2021. The plan identified the need for more “feasible” housing in the city, an issue that surrounding communities like Wilmington and Lake Placid are also struggling to address amid rising short-term vacation rentals and property values.

Cheetham-Palen said Keene City Council funded a one-year subscription to SurveyMonkey for the committee to collect responses. She said the committee posted the survey on Nextdoor Keene, provided hard copies of the survey to the local library and city hall, posted posters on city bulletin boards, sent emails and made phone calls. to residents. Members of the task force even approached residents of the transfer station to encourage them to complete the survey, she said.

The survey had 252 respondents – about 20% of the city’s population, according to Cheetham-Palen – and she thought that gave the survey a certain “statistical significance.” Eighty-one percent of these respondents were full-time residents of Keene, and those who responded were almost evenly split between the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley.

Survey results

Most people are satisfied with their housing in Keene, according to the survey results, despite the identified need for more affordable, long-term housing. Eighty-one percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their current housing situation, with 13% saying they were somewhat satisfied and only 6% saying they were dissatisfied. However, most respondents said they knew of families who had difficulty finding rental housing or an affordable home to buy.

Over 69% of respondents identified two main housing challenges: the availability of affordable single-family housing and the availability of affordable year-round rental housing. The lack of living wages based on the cost of housing in Keene was also identified as a challenge by 43% of respondents, and around 20% of respondents highlighted the quality of homes for sale and rental stock as a challenge.

Cheetham-Palen said tenants who responded to the survey commented on the lack of rental accommodation available in the area and their difficulty in finding such accommodation. Some people said they had to “take what they might get” or that they wouldn’t rent to Keene if they hadn’t known someone who connected them with a unit. It’s hard for someone new to find a rental in Keene, Cheetham-Palen said, and she thought the town might “stand up to improve” its rental stock.

Some people also said that it took them nine months of searching to find an apartment that was not a “total wreckage”; that the houses for sale at lower prices required so much work that it is prohibitive; that there are a number of abandoned and uninhabited housing units in the city; and that there is “too much (short-term vacation rentals).”

Asked about their salary, respondents showed that Keene has a wide range of income. The range of $301,000 or more was just as popular as the range of $20,000 to $30,000 or less, with 8% of respondents choosing each category, although most people identified their income as somewhere between. Seventeen percent of people said their income was between $91,000 and $120,000; 15% of people say they earn between $61,000 and $80,000 a year; and about 12% of people reported earning between $121,000 and $200,000 a year. Cheetham-Palen said the median income for the Keene area was identified as around $67,500 in 2021, although she said that figure may have increased since then.

The survey found that most people – 36% of respondents – have full-time jobs in the area, while 33% of people said they were retired. Twelve percent of people said they have part-time local jobs, and 13% of respondents said they telecommute. Cheetham-Palen said she was surprised by the number of teleworkers, although she believed the city would continue to see an increase in people working from home. She said it could create more job diversity and attract more residents to the community.

The vast majority of respondents, 96%, said single-family homes were their ideal type of housing, and most survey respondents were homeowners – 85%. However, Cheetham-Palem said a demographic and housing study released by Essex County in May showed Keene has more seasonal occupied housing units – 590 – than year-round occupied units. – 478. Cheetham-Palen said that number isn’t new to the town of Keene, but she thinks the town should work to better even out those numbers.

“We want to try and create a little more balance there so that our year-round community is robust and our fire departments have young volunteers and our school is doing well,” she says, “So we want to restore some balance.”

Cheetham-Palen thought the population of Keene had been “older trend” and the responses to the working group’s survey attest to this. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they were between 65 and 74, the most popular answer to a question measuring people’s ages. The other most popular age groups were 55-64 and 45-54, both of which garnered 18% of total responses. Seventeen percent of respondents said they were between 25 and 34 years old. Cheetham-Palen said those responses showed the town should try to retain and attract younger residents.

Suggested solutions

Given the survey results, Cheetham-Palen said the task force believes the city should try to increase its stock of year-round rental housing and access to affordable year-round housing. It’s not easy to do, she says, because the cost of building materials has gone up and home valuations have gone up. Still, the Housing Task Force has thought of several solutions to the city’s need for more rental housing and year-round affordable housing.

The Keene Housing Task Force announced on Tuesday that it planned to test the viability of a site on Gilmore Hill Road to see if a new affordable housing project could be built there.

The task force is also working with LivingADK, an Old Forge-based nonprofit, to see if the city could replicate Living ADK’s voluntary act restriction program. Under the scheme, Keene owners could volunteer to place restrictions on their property. This means that if these owners sold their property, it could never be used as STR or commercial property.

Cheetham-Palen said the task force is working with a number of nonprofits in the area like the Adirondack Land Trust – which owns the Gilmore Hill property – as well as the County Housing Assistance Program of Essex, the Adirondack Foundation and others to find solutions to local needs. for affordable housing. That’s the benefit of the affordable housing crisis, she said — it’s a regional issue that’s not specific to Keene.

“Everyone is trying to figure that out, so it’s great that we have all these resources and (receiving) information on how to try new things,” she says.

HAPEC, which currently owns land opposite Keene Town Hall on State Road 73, is considering the idea of ​​developing up to six units on this land – which is next to the future daycare home Little Peaks – and HAPEC board member Marcy Neville said the program plans to hold open meetings and possibly do polls to see what the community wants.

Cheetham-Palen added that the task force is looking at efforts to meet housing needs in nearby cities like Wilmington and Lake Placid, since both of those municipalities have affordable housing projects underway.

The task force is also working with the Upper Ausable Community Association, which Cheetham-Palen says could help the task force raise funds for the act restriction program.

Cheetham-Palen said the task force debated whether or not the city should start its own nonprofit to fight affordable housing — like Lake Placid’s Homestead Development Corporation — but hoped the efforts of the working group could be hosted under “another umbrella.”

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