Letter to the Editor: The Case for Affordable Housing in Peekskill

Dear Editor,

Westchester County doesn’t offer the same housing opportunities as it did thirty years ago. Now, between substantial student loan debt and low-paying entry level positions, the majority of my generation can’t imagine purchasing real estate at twenty-nine–my age now, and the age my parents were when they bought their first home in Mohegan Lake.

Recently, the Peekskill City Council entered into an agreement to sell public land to a private developer for a market-rate (or luxury) apartment project on Central Ave. But what the city needs is more affordable housing. The affordable alternative means rentals would be restricted to income-specific brackets, including sliding-scale rates for earners between $50,000 and $80,000. An affordable rate one-bedroom would go for $1,500, as compared to the market rate one-bedroom which costs $2,700. I understand if folks might need a moment to pick their jaws up off the floor.

The median income in Peekskill is approximately $52,000. These market rate prices are out of range for current residents. Because this project cannot move forward without the sale of public land, Peekskill has the unique opportunity to make demands of the developer, who has already demonstrated a willingness to oblige more affordable rates. The Council is squandering their leverage–leverage they will not have when developers swoop in to buy up other privately-owned buildings and land–because they believe they need to “grow the tax base.”

Affordable housing increases disposable income and supports wealth building for low and middle income individuals and families. This is a progressive approach that enables the city to naturally support the tax base that exists, rather than displacing folks for higher income residents, which is what has happened historically across the country, most obviously in neighboring New York City. The only thing this accomplishes is a worsening of the divide in income and geographic inequality.

The council has attempted to discredit my own and many other voices on this matter. Meanwhile, they have demonstrated at best negligence, and at worst the active dissemination of misinformation to support the decision they’ve already made without thought or concern for public opinion. I urge them to remember their responsibility to the public, and to reconsider this decision while time remains.

Sincerely,

Daniel O’Brien
Peekskill, NY

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