Pattern for Progress’ Center for Housing Solutions and Urban Initiatives hosted its 12th annual housing conference that drew as many as 120 leaders and professionals in the fields of affordable housing, community development, municipal government, housing development, planning and engineering and community lending.
The conference, titled “From Blight to Bright: Reclaiming Your Neighborhood,” was held on Friday at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel and focused on reclaiming neighborhoods and rebuilding communities.
Lynne M. Patton, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, delivered the keynote address. Patton, who oversees the largest public housing program in the country, stressed the importance of housing because, she said, it not only provided security and stability, but also hope and dignity.
“New York and New Jersey represent an extremely dense and high-cost area of the country where this administration recognizes that we cannot afford not to address blight and preserve our existing affordable and public housing, as in many cases, there is no place to build,” said Patton. “We are doing this through historic physical inspection reform, innovative programs like RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) and federal oversight of distressed public housing authorities.”
Earlier in the morning, Karen L. Black, principal of May 8 Consulting, spoke about tools to mitigate blight and revitalize communities through code enforcement. Blight was just a symptom of the underlying issue of weak demand, she told participants. When blight is eliminated, she said, crime is reduced, the health of area residents improves, surrounding property values go up by up to 30%, tax revenue goes up, thereby supporting school districts.
Adam Zaranko, president of the NYS Land Bank Association and executive director of the Albany County Land Bank Corporation, spoke about the benefits of land banks and best practices for their implementation. He predicted that as New York continues to lose population, the problem of vacant properties will spread to areas that currently do not face it.
Brian Pine, of Burlington Associates, discussed the benefits and best practices for community land trusts with a focus on affordable housing. Among its many benefits, land trusts prevent gentrification by redeveloping properties and preserving their values.
“Land banks and land trusts can – and should – work together,” Pine said.
Madeline Fletcher of New York State Homes and Community Renewal joined Black, Zaranko and Pine to moderate a panel discussion focusing on comprehensive community development, including code enforcement, Brownfield funds and naturally occurring retirement communities.
“Pattern was very pleased to bring together well over a hundred participants from the Hudson Valley to learn about valuable tools to revitalize our communities,” said Pattern senior vice president and executive director of the Center for Housing Solutions and Urban Initiatives Joe Czajka. “Lynne Patton, the regional administrator from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided an inspirational talk about safe and affordable housing for our communities.”
HUD Community Planning and Development Specialist Joseph Baietti also gave a presentation about Opportunity Zones and Section 108, HUD’s loan guarantee program.
Karen Black- May 8 Consulting
Adam Zaranko-Albany County Land Bank Corporation
Brian Pine-Burlington Associates in Community Development