Homelessness High in Expensive Mid-Hudson Valley

Homelessness High in Expensive Mid-Hudson Valley

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Homelessness is persistently higher in the Mid-Hudson Valley than in the rest of New York State (excluding New York City). High housing costs are a big part of the problem, as are pockets of poverty and a regional economy that is still looking to regain its pre-recession footing.

Since 2009, the point-in-time count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people conducted on one night (usually in January) has averaged 15 people per 10,000 residents in the Mid-Hudson Valley, compared to 11 in the state outside New York City. That’s below the national average over those years of 20 people per 10,000, but still cause for concern. In raw terms, we’re talking about 1,200 to 1,400 people in the region without a home on a cold winter night. It should be noted that people without homes who are staying with family or friends are not counted in the point in time count; for more information on how this count is conducted, see here.

The big economic picture is part of the story. From 2007 to 2012, total jobs fell by 3.7% regionally, compared to a 2.7% decline nationally and 2.1% statewide. Job growth has been negative or almost zero since 2009 (the year job losses were at their worst). A high median income for the region of $67,600 in 2008-12 (9% above the state level) masks financial distress in local areas throughout the region. While the regional poverty rate is 11% (same as the state and below the nation), poverty is much higher in some of the region’s cities (28% in Newburgh, 26% in Poughkeepsie), towns (34% in Monroe, 23% in New Paltz) and villages (60% in Kiryas Joel).

And then there is the cost of housing. Median home values are $300,000 in Dutchess, $290,000 in Orange and $240,000 in Ulster – far higher than the rest of the state excluding NYC (about $220,000). The ratio of median home value to median income in the region is 3.27, above the range considered affordable (2-3).

Renting is not an affordable alternative – renters spend 35% of their income on rent in the Mid-Hudson Valley, above the 30% considered affordable and 29% statewide. Less than 20% of rental units in the region charged less than $750 per month in rent, compared to 40% statewide.

In addition to the cost of housing and general state of the economy, lack of affordable health care, mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence can all contribute to the problem of homelessness. In the Mid-Hudson Valley, 11% of residents under 65 lack health insurance, visits to mental health clinics have declined (which may or may not reflect the need for services) and reports of domestic violence have increased (up 17% since 2009). During this month of attention to the problem of homelessness, residents of the Mid-Hudson Valley have much to think about.

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