Housing Trends

Eastdale Village, Poughkeepsie, New York

Trends in housing – whether related to affordability, availability, or type – all shape how our county’s population will change. For most of us, our trips for the day start and end at home. Where we choose to live, or can afford to live, is more important than where we work when trying to understand our transportation needs. To grasp how housing trends might impact our future transportation system, we sought to answer two basic questions: 

  • What are the current trends in the county’s housing stock and prices? 
  • How do we expect these housing dynamics to change in the future? 

We reviewed data from various sources to understand how housing changes will impact our transportation system. Below is a summary of those key trends, their implications, and ideas for how we might address them.

Trend 1. The detached single-family home will continue to make up much of our housing stock

In most of Dutchess County, housing development has traditionally focused on single-family homes on individual lots. This reflected market desires and sometimes developers’ preferences, and our current housing inventory reflects this history. About 65 percent of the county’s housing stock consists of detached single-family units. This proportion has stayed constant for 30 years, and even grew slightly over the past decade. While market trends are shifting, we do not expect this dynamic to change dramatically. And based on early evidence, the drive for single family homes and desire to live outside of core cities may even accelerate in a post-COVID environment, which will place added pressure on our housing inventory. 

Persons living in single-family homes tend to rely more on personal vehicles for making trips. And much of our housing is in lower-density areas where transit, walking and bicycling are less convenient or even impossible. Given the prevalence of lower-density development patterns, we expect that the personal vehicle will remain the predominant mode of transportation in the county. However, where denser communities exist or can be developed, promoting other travel options is and will be essential. 

Trend 2. For new housing, more multi-family and less single-family homes

Although the single-family house makes up much of our housing, new construction will continue to shift towards creating more multi-family homes (e.g. condos, townhouses, and apartments) and fewer one-unit homes. A look at major projects in the development pipeline shows that multi-family developments make up 80 percent of all proposed residential units in our county. The relatively few single-family residential projects on the horizon is partly due to  the market’s recognition of our aging population – about 50 percent of all proposed residential units are age restricted – as well as younger adult market that wants to live a more urban or village-center lifestyle.
The potential growth in the number of multi-family units, especially those for seniors, presents opportunities to expand transportation access to these locations. This could range from traditional transit routes and specialized demand response services to ride-hailing and even autonomous vehicle services in future decades. The growth in multi-family units will also make walking and biking increasingly important considerations for residents. However, there will still be a market for detached homes, so a shift away from new home construction will likely place pressure on existing home inventories and raise prices.  

What We Heard

"I live in a dense and compact neighborhood whose development far pre-dates the automobile. It is within walking distance of my job and most daily activities. The density and walking allow me to get to know my neighbors in a way that large-lot single family neighborhoods would make challenging."

- Moving Dutchess Forward survey

Trend 3. Declining inventory, rising prices

We will likely experience a near-term shortage of housing caused by declining inventory and rising demand. The number of single-family homes for sale in Dutchess County declined by 20 percent from 2016-2019, while months of inventory’ – the number of months it would take to sell all properties currently for sale at the average monthly sales pace – declined from an average of 5.2 months in 2018 to 4.6 months in 2019. Early data through June 2020 shows a continuation of this trend, with active listings declining from a high of 3,150 homes in 2016 to about 2,200 homes. 

The same pressures exist for the rental market, which is experiencing very low vacancy rates even though the number of multi-family units being built is increasing. The year 2019 marked the fourthhighest number of apartments built in the 30-year history of the Dutchess County Planning Department’s rental housing survey. Yet, the vacancy rate remained at 1.5 percent, which is one of the lowest rates since 2000. These low vacancies have led to higher rents, with average apartment rents increasing by two to three percent from 2018 to 2019And although multi-family developments have outpaced new single-family homes of late, residential proposals overall have not increased at the same pace as new commercial proposals. 

While our available inventory has declined, home values have increased. From 2016-2019, median sales prices in Dutchess County increased by over 18 percent, while estimated home values grew from $263,000 in 2016 to $317,000 in 2020. Record low interest rates, coupled with a reported influx of residents from the New York metro area due to COVID, also appear to be increasing the demand for a decreasing number of available homes.  

These conditions reflect difficult housing market for buyers and renters, and increasing pressure on home prices, rents, and affordability. This dynamic may change if more housing is built and inventory increases. Additional housing may also become available as older residents transition out of single-family homes. As existing homes and neighborhoods become increasingly attractive, we will need to invest in the transportation networks that serve these neighborhoods. 

Trend 4. Lack of housing options for low- and moderate-income renters and buyers

As housing costs increase, whether for buyers or renters, we run the risk of pricing out low- and moderate-income households. An overly competitive housing market will invariably favor wealthier households, notably for those who have the means to own rather than rent. 

In Dutchess, homeowners tend to spend less of their income on housing than renters: about 37 percent of homeowners with a mortgage spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, while more than 55 percent of renter households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. This divide appears to be worsening, as median monthly mortgages in Dutchess have declined during the past decade while median rents have increased. 

Though rising housing costs will place additional financial burdens on buyers and renters, renters may feel a disproportionate impact. This will require us to pay close attention to transportation options in areas with a high share of renters (particularly the City of Poughkeepsie, where two thirds of residents rent) and to minimize transportation costs for renter households. Reducing transportation costs can also help low- and moderate-income home buyers, by enabling them to compete in a competitive real estate market. Again, this will require us to maintain and expand low cost transportation choices in established neighborhoods, since it’s these locations that may be the most affordable to local buyers. Lastly, we can also support the development of other housing options such as duplexes, fourplexes, cottages, and townhouses in walkable town and village centers.

Our Role

Based on what we’ve learned about future housing trends, our role could include the following: 

  • Promote low cost transportation choices such as sidewalks, rail trails, and transit to help low- and moderate-income households, especially in locations with high shares of renters and new homeowners. 
  • Support transportation investments in established neighborhoods to reduce households’ overall costs. This includes Electric Vehicle (EV) and eventually Autonomous Vehicle (AV) infrastructure to expand transportation choices and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Encourage infill development in our cities, villages, and town centers, especially of multi-unit housing types, to capitalize on existing transportation infrastructure and services.