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News from the Noteworthy

Housing Option Problems

With construction well on its way at Springbrook’s “Ford on Main” development in downtown Oneonta, I have received no shortage of positive feedback, comments, suggestions, and endless “thank yous.” I am so grateful for the enthusiastic reactions shared with Springbrook for taking on this housing project. It is no secret that our community has a housing problem. If fact, it is no secret that our country is in a housing crisis.

Like much about our county’s current economic condition, the housing situation is full of contradictions. We face a decades-old housing shortage. There are not enough housing options available for those in need of homes. However, builders are also pulling back from building new homes because, at the moment (with interest rates on the rise), they can’t sell their current home stock. It is a perplexing problem and one that should be at the top of our concerns — while we face this housing crisis, we also face a nationwide homelessness crisis.

Here, in the heart of Upstate, our local community faces these same contradictions, with a unique twist — rentals. We, too, face a shortage of housing options, exasperated by the rental market. Homes that would otherwise be available to individuals and families looking to buy a home are taken off the market at staggering rates to accommodate summer
visitors and fall/winter student needs — leaving year-round residents with no options. Springbrook’s investment in the historic Ford Block directly resulted from this issue. And while I am exceptionally proud of this project — it is just a start, a drop in the bucket of the work that must happen to address this problem.

I am heartened that leadership across our region has recognized this issue—for example, Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek’s new Housing Commission. It is a near-constant topic on meeting agendas. A week does not pass that I do not hear of our housing crisis when attending regional meetings (like Chamber events or economic development meetings), and each commission, leader, or organization, has its take on how we might find a solution. However, what is glaringly missing, is a cohesive, unified approach.

We must bring together the many actors on this stage, all earnestly seeking a solution — unifying the many people working to find answers. When I say unify, I am not arguing for all to get on the same page. I am insisting that together we must be willing to recognize that crises and dilemmas are not solved with either/or thinking. They are solved by embracing multiple approaches with one unified goal: sustainable housing options for all who live in our community, year-round or part-time, and visit it!

The housing crisis is not an Oneonta or Cooperstown problem, or “Big Employer” problem. It is a community problem. And only by bringing all ideas together, all leaders to the same table, can we identify the solutions that will move our community forward. Because, right now (with best intentions), each actor is staging a one-person show, unaware they have an entire cast they can call upon to help.

There is not one magic solution — it is decades in the making, and addressing it will mean our community has to reckon with a local economy built mainly on transient populations. This does not mean there is no answer. It means we must work together, unlike any past collaborative efforts — across village and town lines, employer lines, and party lines. I share these thoughts as a challenge. Can we unite to face this challenge? I believe we can. Will you join me?

Patricia Kennedy, CEO, Springbrook


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