Delafield Street, Poughkeepsie, NY
Housing is one of life’s basic needs, whether it takes the form of a detached home, an apartment, or semi-attached condominium or townhouse. Without access to adequate housing and the stability it provides, most of life’s other basic needs, such as improving one’s health, finding work, or learning, can’t take place.
Given its central role in our lives, paying for housing, whether by rent or mortgage, can easily become the single biggest expense for a household. Typically, housing and transportation costs make up about half of a household’s budget. The term ‘location affordability’ is often used to capture this combined cost for an area. While the DCTC has limited influence over the cost of housing, if we can reduce transportation costs, we can improve the ‘location affordability’ of an area.
In this section, we address potential barriers to housing by answering two basic questions:
- Where are housing costs a burden to residents?
- What transportation policies, services, and projects can we employ to lower transportation costs, and in turn, make locations more affordable?
How do we define housing affordability?
We can look at housing affordability as a balance (or imbalance) between available income and the price of housing. If increases in housing costs outpace income growth (let alone income decline or stagnation), then there’s a greater chance of a cost burden. To understand affordability, we relied on definitions and data from HUD, with the aim to identify areas where housing costs make up 30 percent or more of estimated household income. Households that pay 30 percent or more of income on housing are considered cost burdened: the idea being that if a household is paying that much of its income on rent or a mortgage, they may have difficulty affording other life necessities such as food, medical care, and transportation.
What communities have the highest cost burden?
We used HUD’s Community Planning Development Systems database to identify areas that have the highest number and share of households paying 30 percent or more of their income on housing. While the HUD data is based on the 2011-2015 American Community Survey (ACS), it still provides useful insight into affordability across the county. We will update this analysis with data from the 2016-2020 ACS when available.
Our analysis found that about 43,000 households in Dutchess County are cost burdened by housing. These households are spread across every one of our towns, cities, and villages. Our most populated communities have the highest number of cost burdened households. The City and Town of Poughkeepsie have 12,700 such households or almost 30 percent of the countywide share. The City and Town of Poughkeepsie together with the towns of East Fishkill, Hyde Park, and Wappinger account for over half of the cost burdened households in the county.
But affordability can vary within a municipality, just as it does within a county. The HUD database allows us to assess affordability within our communities at the census tract level. This more focused look found that the Middle Main section of the City of Poughkeepsie had the highest share of cost burdened households at 67 percent, followed by tracts in the City’s Northside area at 58 percent. Overall, in six of the eight census tracts in the City, more than half the households experience a cost burden. Tracts in the City of Beacon, Village of Rhinebeck, and the Town of Poughkeepsie also had at least half of their households living with a cost burden.
How can transportation help lower overall household costs?
Housing affordability is a complex issue and we don’t pretend to have all the answers – Moving Dutchess Forward is a transportation plan after all. Yet, transportation policies, projects, and programs must be considered in any conversation about housing. Safe, convenient, and reliable access, or the lack of it, affects our housing choices: it can expand or limit where we are able to live, and in turn, how much we pay to live there.
A variety of transportation options can help mitigate the impact of high housing costs, by lowering transportation costs, expanding access to more housing choices, and providing better access to job and educational opportunities. We can help households facing cost burdens by improving transportation safety and reliability, providing convenient transit access, and creating walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. We can also look at programs that connect people to jobs and educational opportunities that raise incomes. And we can support local land use decisions that provide more housing choices for a mix of incomes and family types.
Where do we start?
First, we can look at promoting sensible transportation and housing policies (such as smaller lot sizes and zoning that allows for mixed housing types) at the county and local level to shape a transportation system and housing landscape that provides options for more people (we talk more about this under Advocate). Second, we can make smarter decisions about how and where we invest our transportation dollars (we talk about this under Invest). And third, we can concentrate on how and where transportation access poses a problem across our county, and particularly in our most cost-burdened communities: those areas where at least half of households pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing.
We can focus our efforts by using the safety and reliability data presented in our Barriers to Safe Access and Reliable Access sections to see how these transportation issues intersect with our most cost burdened communities. For example, the City of Poughkeepsie’s Northside and Middle Main areas are home to intersections and streets with very high crash rates; the northern part of the City of Beacon is home to severe traffic congestion; and the Village of Rhinebeck has limited bus service. We can use this knowledge to shape our policies and target our investments to improve the location affordability of these areas.
Based on this analysis, our role could include the following:
- Work with County Planning to promote housing that supports mixed incomes and mixed uses and encourage those projects to provide walking, bicycling, and transit connections, which help reduce transportation costs.
- Reduce transportation safety and reliability issues across the county, regardless of the form of travel, with a focus on our most cost burdened communities.
- Evaluate and rethink transit services to best meet local needs, particularly in our most cost burdened communities.
- Target future transportation investment, especially for walking, bicycling, and transit infrastructure, with a focus on our most cost burdened communities.
- Maintain transportation infrastructure, especially for walking, bicycling, and transit, focusing on our most cost burdened communities.
- Promote housing opportunities near existing or proposed bus routes and rail stations.
- Encourage the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure to reduce transportation energy costs.
- Consider access to housing, especially in our most cost burdened communities, when evaluating potential safety and congestion-related improvements. Provide additional weight for projects that improve access to basic needs in our project selection criteria.
See our Barriers to Basic Needs Map for areas with housing cost burdens.
A NOTE ON OUR METHODOLOGY...
You’ll notice that our discussion of housing barriers looks a little different than our barriers analyses on access to education, goods and services, and recreation. This is a function of the data available to us. Despite limited data, we wanted to evaluate affordability and determine how we can address those challenges. See our Methodology document for more information.
HOUSING AFFORDABILITY IN DUTCHESS
In Dutchess County, almost 40% of households spend 30% or more of their income on housing – the generally accepted upper limit a household should spend on housing. Lower income households are especially likely to be cost burdened: more than 80% of county households making $20,000-$34,999 annually spend 30% or more of their income on housing, compared to only 13% of households making over $75,000.
|Municipality||Cost Burdened Households||Percent of Municipality|
|Red Hook Village||384||47%|
*Includes Village of Millerton
**Includes Village of Tivoli
ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT AFFORDABILITY
HUD maintains a Location Affordability Index that uses a model based on ACS data to estimate housing costs. Though we found this index too detailed for our purposes, it did provide insight on how affordability relates to family type. The index showed that every census tract in Dutchess County had a housing cost burden for at least one family type. Three family types in particular – single-parents, retired couples, and very low-income individuals – experienced housing cost burdens in most, if not all, parts of the county.
"Our young adult daughter lives with us. Because of health issues, she does not drive. She wants to find full-time work but will have to move where there is affordable housing, public transportation, and access to her health services."
- Moving Dutchess Forward survey