COUNTY It’s time to get serious on housing

It’s been readily apparent to anyone attempting to buy a home the past few years that buying a house isn’t cheap in the north county anymore.

There is a reason there has been such a visible increase in the number of people who need the county’s help finding emergency housing in area hotels or in the number of people who find themselves homeless. Housing has gotten too expensive for many in our midst.

But it was hard to get a real handle on the depth of housing unaffordability until the county’s Housing Market Assessment and Development Strategy was released. The study was undertaken by the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Development and is designed to help identify solutions to the problem.

According to the study, about half of renters in Chautauqua County are considered cost-burdened by housing costs. Part of the problem, in addition to increasing home values, is that more than 40% of county households earn less than the annual income needed to comfortably afford the average rental unit, including rent and utilities while 53% of county households earn less than the annual income needed to comfortably afford homeownership, including mortgage and utilities.

Let’s be more succinct. Not only do we have a housing problem, but we have a wage problem too. The two are inextricably linked.

“Housing affordability is a challenge that impacts a broad range of households in Chautauqua County. Current homeowners are far less likely to be cost burdened, but renting or buying in the current market has become far more challenging and less affordable for many households across income levels,” the study states.


It’s obvious that both the county and municipalities around the county, but particularly the greater Jamestown and Dunkirk areas, need to do more on not only code enforcement to bring substandard housing up to par but to quickly increase the amount of affordable housing that is available in the county’s two population centers. IDA officials want to streamline the development process, identify and market top sites for development, do more with individual municipalities to solve housing needs, help with zoning or policy updates that could boost new housing development, create better engagement and organization with private landlords, explore a second phase of countywide code enforcement and increase the availability of supportive housing for senior citizens.

Those are all good steps, and CCPEG should be commended for its analysis and work to create some strategies and priorities to help increase the county’s stock of affordable housing and deal with substandard housing. It’s a first, important step that the county has taken.

But the housing strategy only deals with one of the two problems. And until there is both more housing and good-paying jobs to pay for that housing, we won’t solve the housing problem.


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