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Dutchess County Releases 2020 Rental Housing Survey

Despite historic new rental construction volume, vacancy rate hits historic low
highlighting need for expanded housing options

Poughkeepsie … The Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development has released its annual 2020 Rental Housing Survey, which focuses on four rental categories: Market-Rate Apartment Complexes (20+ units), Tax Credit and Inclusionary Apartments, Other Market-Rate Apartments (1-19 units) and Subsidized Housing. The annual survey is a resource for local municipalities and the public to shape zoning and planning policies to address the needs and gaps relating to housing development.

The full report is available on the County’s website at: http://bit.ly/2020RentalHousingSurvey

Among the highlights of the 2020 report:

  • More than 560 new apartments were constructed in 2020, the highest number of rental units constructed in the survey’s 40-year history.
  • Market-rate apartment complexes saw a considerable increase in rents (from 4.5 to 7.5 percent) for all unit sizes.
  • The vacancy rate for market rate apartment complexes decreased from 1.5 percent to 0.9 percent, a 40 percent decrease from 2019 and the lowest vacancy rate recorded since the County began conducting the survey in 1980. A vacancy rate closer to 5 percent is preferable and is an indication of a healthier rental market where renters have more options and mobility. Low vacancy rates can negatively affect tenants.

    • Rents for tax credit and inclusionary apartments showed a modest increase ranging from 1.1 to 2 percent for one-, two- and three-bedroom unit; these rent increases are more modest than market-rate rents since increases are set and regulated by government entities.

The 2020 Rental Housing Survey was conducted in the midst of the historic COVID-19 pandemic, which likely further impacted the low vacancy rate. Tenant mobility may have been affected in the short-term due to significant unemployment as well as the eviction moratoria that were put in place at the state and federal levels. Additionally, the region has seen an exodus of residents from New York City adding to the demand for housing. It is unclear if that trend will continue to have an impact long-term.

The Department also evaluated the annual household income required to afford the average rents published in the report, using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standard that a household should pay no more than 30 percent of its gross income for housing, including utilities:

AMI

Dutchess County Senior Planner Heather LaVarnway said, “Rising rents paired with a historically low vacancy rate illustrate the intense level of pressure on the local rental market. In theory, we shouldn’t have such a low vacancy rate at the same time that we have experienced a historically high level of rental unit construction. This clearly demonstrates the need for more housing options throughout Dutchess County.”

The release of the 2020 Rental Housing Survey is part of the County’s effort to frame this issue for localities and provide an impetus for change in order to address the need for more and wider variety of housing in Dutchess County. The Department of Planning & Development is currently working on a companion report regarding the for-sale housing market and will work with consultants to complete a larger assessment of the County’s housing needs. This assessment will study the current and projected gap in the County’s housing stock through 2040 and the data will aid in the development of new strategies to eliminate the gaps between available housing and what people can afford.

The Department and the Dutchess County Planning Federation will also provide educational opportunities for local leaders to discuss the need for more housing in local communities, and the specific planning and zoning mechanisms that could be used to achieve this goal. These opportunities will take place from the fall 2021 through 2022.

To aid residents struggling with the pressures of the housing market and economic fallout of the pandemic who are now facing housing instability or homelessness, the County has several programs to provide assistance.

Earlier this month, Dutchess County and the City of Poughkeepsie announced $1.1 million is available for tenants adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to assist with past-due rent and utility payments. Funding for the program is available through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, and the deadline for applications is May 17th. An additional $8.7 million from the U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program is expected to be available to renters later this spring.

Additionally, residents at risk of eviction can call United Way’s 211 Information line to access customized support and be connected to various housing support programs that meet their specific needs.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “Safe and affordable housing offers more than simply four walls; it provides us each the space to live, grow and be nurtured. The past year has been economically challenging for so many, particularly tenants and landlords. Dutchess County continues to work with developers and municipalities to raise awareness about the need for safe, affordable housing to expand our local rental housing stock. The County is also proud to offer programs like our Emergency Rent and Utility Relief Program to keep renters facing COVID-related back rent and utility payments from facing eviction.”