Affordable housing law proposed for Rhinebeck

A sweeping new affordable housing law, to include a tax on all new construction, has been proposed for the Town of Rhinebeck.

At the May 13 Town Board meeting, Jonathan Mensch, head of the Open Space and Affordable Housing Commission, presented a draft version of the proposed affordable housing law, which would be a town-wide version of the one put in place at the Rhinebeck Gardens complex earlier this year.

Before the board agreed to send the issue to the planners and town attorney, Mensch outlined the two key features.

For high-density areas with at least 10 units, for senior housing or for quarter-acre zoning districts, Mensch said, the law would mandate that 10 percent of the units be built as affordable housing.

The town would also create “a pool of capital for building additional affordable housing or buying actual existing housing stock and turning into affordable housing,” Mensch told the board.

Under this portion of the proposal, any new building constructed in the Town of Rhinebeck will be taxed $1 for every square foot of space.

“So if somebody builds a 2,500 square foot [building], there would be a $2,500 fee that’s associated with that building, and that goes in the affordable housing fund,” Mensch said.

There would also be a fee for any developer who wants to exceed the allowed density under current zoning law. For a zone that allows 10 units, there is a cap that allows the builder to go no more than 30 percent over, but he would pay a $3-per-square-foot fee on the 11th unit on top of the $1 per square foot fee for the first 10 units.

The definition of affordable housing, under the law, would be contingent on the “area median income.” An affordable housing unit listed for sale must be inexpensive enough for somebody who makes 100 percent of the area median income, which as of January was $87,200 for a family, to purchase the home while spending no more than 30 percent of their annual income in total real estate-related costs.

“That includes a mortgage, that includes taxes,” Mensch said.

For rental units, the calculation is the same, but must be affordable for a person making 80 percent of the area median income, not 100 percent. Their costs could not exceed 30 percent of 80 percent of the median income.

The law would be administered by Hudson River Housing, a Dutchess County nonprofit working to expand affordable housing.
The action followed an announcement from Trustee Joe Gelb that the sale of the two first affordable housing units in The Gardens appears imminent.

There are four affordable housing units currently at the Rhinebeck Gardens as part of an 80-unit expansion on the complex. The new units run from $234,000 to $334,900, according to a January Town press release. The affordable housing units are set for $190,000 to $245,000.

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