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Study: Lewis could use affordable housing, not major developments

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County could support 240 new affordable rental units, but major housing projects are probably not in the cards, according to a Development Authority of the North Country-commissioned study.

“After our analysis, we feel that support for market rate development of any significance is not feasible,” said a report completed by GAR Associates Inc., Amherst. “Rents would be too low and demand too limited to support a development of any magnitude.”

M. Scott Allen, vice president and analyst at GAR Associates, at Tuesday’s legislative Economic Development Committee meeting said there “could well be some spill-over effect from Fort Drum” in Lewis County.

However, the base-generated demand for rental units appears likely to be met by existing and proposed housing projects closer to Fort Drum in Jefferson County, and uncertainty about long-term military housing needs would make another large project here difficult to justify, Mr. Allen said.

“There is opportunity for market development,” said Michelle L. Capone, director of regional development for DANC.

However, the Fort Drum demand in Lewis County is concentrated on soldiers purchasing single-family homes and duplexes, with the Maple Run Homes development just north of the village a good example of that, she said.

“We do feel that some of the families in and around Jefferson County and those associated with Fort Drum opt for and choose the more rural and tranquil lifestyle that can be available in nearby Lewis County, but traditionally and typically they are looking more so for a single-family orientated type environment,” the report states.

The study suggests there would be support for 180 affordable family units and 60 affordable senior units.

Family housing should be a mix of one- to four-bedroom units, with a majority being two-bedroom models, the study suggests. Senior housing, primarily consisting of one- and two-bedroom units, probably should be located in the Lowville area near support services, possibly in a single complex.

The report recommends that family housing also be developed near support services but said it could be spread throughout the county near other population centers. Such development could be done in phases.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Lewis County Department of Social Services Commissioner Stacy L. Alvord said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “This is what we thought it would say.”

Mrs. Alvord and Cheryl L. Shenkle-O’Neill, executive director of Snow Belt Housing Co. Inc., Lowville, both noted difficulty in finding affordable housing for individuals or families who are homeless or live in substandard conditions.

Ms. Shenkle-O’Neill specifically mentioned that a federal Housing and Urban Development program designed to curb homelessness will pay only the federally designated “fair market rent” for the county, while it is hard to find units that don’t require monthly rents above that level.

The complete Lewis County housing study is accessible at the DANC website. www.danc.org

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