ELLENVILLE – With the sun shining down and not a raincloud to be found, community members and leaders ranging from Kingston and Albany, all the way to Washington, DC gathered at the corner of Canal and Broadhead Streets on Monday morning to cut the ribbon at the village's new Buttermilk Falls Townhouse development.
"Too often affordable housing has been looked upon by folks as a problem or a blight upon their community, and I would challenge anyone to say, looking at this backdrop — this affordable housing, homeownership for folks here in Ulster County — that this isn't one of the most aesthetically pleasing group of homes that anyone can see or find about anywhere," said Kevin O'Connor, executive director of the Rural Ulster Preservation Company, or RUPCO, the company that constructed the fifteen new townhomes. The homes include three bedrooms, two stories, full basements, and have been certified with Energy Star classification because of their efficiency.
The development's houses are available for purchase by families that earn 100 to 75 percent of the average median household income in Ulster County, which, according to O'Connor, is about $70,000 for a family of four. To facilitate that, four of the homes can be purchased for $144,000, available to those earning the median, while the eleven other homes will cost $127,000 to those who earn 80 percent of the median.
In fact, the affordability of the homes was so appealing that the fifteen houses may be snapped up before we know it. O'Connor mentioned that purchase offers had already been made on two townhomes, with another six homes that were being very actively pursued with the real estate agent charged with their sale, Carolyn Peters-Baker.
"We talk about supporting people, creating homes, and improving communities at RUPCO, and I can't think of a project that really epitomizes that more than the Buttermilk Falls townhomes," said O'Connor.
The land itself was originally undeveloped, and purchased from Levi Hecht and Aaron Weinberger for upwards of $300,000. The sale was finalized shortly before building began in the summer of last year, but there was a contract of sale going back about four years.
According to O'Connor, the entirety of the $3.4 million project was funded by various state and federal programs and agencies. Providing funding were the New York State Home Program, a federal program run through the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal; the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation, through the New York State Housing and Finance Agency; Neighborworks America; and the Community Preservation Corporation, a group O'Connor describes as a "composite non-profit bank" that provided a $120,000 grant.
Local dignitaries like Village Mayor Jeff Kaplan, Deputy Mayor Ray Younger, and Wawarsing Town Supervisor Ed Jennings spoke at the ribbon cutting to welcome the new development.
"We want to see how we can help those people that may be more economically challenged in our community, people who are raising kids in substandard housing, and put them in units that they have a fair shot when they go to school in the morning of equalizing the playing field," said Mayor Kaplan. "We are hoping that projects like this will continue to come to our area."
RUPCO also had guests from county, state, and federal government, whose programs helped make the development happen, including Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, NYS Department of Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen, State Assembleyman Kevin Cahill, State Senator John Bonacic, and US Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
"I feel incredibly humbled right now, because — right now — we are standing in someone's home," said Hein. "We're not standing in a house, we're not standing in a project; we're standing among homes. And that's an extremely exciting thing that can happen in a community, and how that can transform a community is a very exciting moment for all of the people of Ellenville, and all the people of Ulster County."
Once the ceremonial ribbon was cut, the guests were welcomed into one of the townhouses to take a look around.