In examining Goshen ’s approach to workforce housing, we learn that:
1. Geological factors such as a limited water supply might limit opportunities to build affordable housing.
2. Towns can use a combination of science and zoning law to encourage building workforce housing in the most appropriate areas.
The town of Goshen recently revised its zoning law. One of the town’s goals for the revision was to increase the opportunities to provide more workforce housing. However, the town faces the challenge of balancing its need for affordable housing, a need to protect the groundwater supply, and a wish to preserve the town’s rural character. Goshen ’s solution is to require that 10% of all new units in the new hamlet districts be affordable, and adopt the development approach of conservation subdivision in the rural district, which encourages the preservation of open space. Density bonuses are possible in the rural district, but all new developments in the hamlet and rural districts are subject to limitations presented by the town’s water supply.
Goshen adopted its zoning law June 10, 2004 . No developments have been completed, but the planning board is reviewing many applications for developments in the hamlets that will include affordable housing. They are Prospect Hill, which will include 20 affordable units; HambletonianPark , which will include four affordable units; Maplewood , which will include 21 or 22 affordable units; Lone Oak, which will include 17 affordable units; and Hamlet at Goshen , which will include 50 affordable units. The planning board is also reviewing an application for a planned adult community (PAC), which is age-restricted to people 55 years old or more. The PAC, called Hendler, will include 30-33 affordable units.
Goshen is located in OrangeCounty , and has a population of about 13,000. OrangeCounty is one of the fastest-growing counties in New York , partly because many people have found housing in New York City and WestchesterCounty too expensive, and are attracted to the county’s low housing costs. There are about 4,000 buildable acres in Goshen , and an estimated 3,000 houses before the planning board.
ZONING LAW AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Goshen adopted an affordable housing policy that mandates that affordable housing be mingled with market-rate housing, and that the affordable units must be indistinguishable from the market-rate units, except that the affordable units might be smaller with different interior features. People who will use the affordable housing as their primary residence and earn between 60% and 150% of the OrangeCounty median income may use the affordable units. The town gives priority to emergency services volunteers, paid emergency services personnel, Village and Town of Goshen employees, school district employees, honorably discharged veterans, health care workers, and the elderly. Residency in the Town of Goshen is not a requirement, but is a factor in determining preference.
The affordable units will be subject to perpetual deed restrictions as affordable units. The Town Board will determine resale prices for affordable units. Rents, which include utilities, may not exceed 30% of the maximum family income allowed for the affordable units. If the income of a resident of an affordable rental unit changes and exceeds the maximum as set by the Town Board, the resident must notify the Town Board, and must leave the affordable unit when the lease term is completed.
Goshen uses inclusionary zoning to create affordable housing in the hamlet districts. The town has adopted the concept of traditional neighborhood development (TND), which promotes a pedestrian-oriented environment in which people can walk comfortably between different land uses, such as homes, jobs, and recreational opportunities. All TND developments shall include at least 10% affordable housing.
Also, Goshen describes requirements for Planned Adult Communities (PACs), which may only be built in the Commercial/Office Mixed-Use (CO) District and are intended and operated for occupancy by people 55 years of age or older, as provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 3607(b)(2)(c). The town mandates that 15% of the units in a PAC be designated as affordable.
Goshen uses incentive zoning to encourage developers to create affordable housing in the RU District, allowing developers to build more units on unconstrained property if some of the additional units are designated as affordable, so long as the groundwater can support them. In the RU district, Goshen allows a 50% development bonus if 20% or more of the total dwelling units are permanently designated as affordable.
Development in Goshen and OrangeCounty is limited by the variability of groundwater. Some communities in the county have seen wells run dry and groundwater contamination. When the town revised its master plan, it hired the hydrology company Schoor DePalma to conduct a study of the town’s water, and the company created protocols to determine how many units a parcel can support. The town used the study’s findings to divide the town into two aquifer overlay districts, the AQ-3 and AQ-6 Overlay Districts. Maximum unit counts may vary depending on whether a proposed lot is in the AQ-3 or AQ-6 Overlay District, unless the development is connected to a public water supply. Parcels in either overlay district might be found to be able to support fewer units after testing for water than initial calculations according to the zoning law had suggested.
Goshen believes that higher density may be supported in the Hamlet Mixed-Use (HM) and Hamlet Residential (HR) Districts than in the RU District. Therefore, the town mandates that 10% of new units in the hamlets be affordable. Density bonuses are available to developers in the RU District should the developer find that the parcel’s water can support extra units, but creation of affordable units will likely take place in the hamlets, since these parts of town have the necessary infrastructure and are most suited to development.
Goshen acknowledges the strain high housing costs put on its residents, but development is limited by the town water supply. High-density housing cannot be supported in some areas. Therefore, the town uses a combination of bonuses and mandatory inclusion of affordable units, depending on the district’s ability to support housing, to create affordable housing. The town’s goal is to provide as much affordable housing as possible while preserving the town’s rural character and protecting its water supply.
Town of Goshen Zoning Law.