Why Innovative Housing Solutions?

The Housing Smart Communities Initiative includes twelve key actions municipalities can take to create a housing smart community and help solve the housing crisis. However, the list of actions included in the program is not an exhaustive list of all the strategies a community could take to help solve the housing crisis. In many ways, local community members and municipal staff may have more innovative and well-suited solutions to solving the housing crisis in their community. The Housing Smart Communities Initiative encourages municipalities to develop unique and innovative solutions to promote the development of new affordable and workforce housing.

HSCI Scoring Process for Innovative Housing Solutions

As municipalities engage in the Housing Smart Communities Initiative, the Ulster County Planning Department will work with municipal staff and community members to develop the proposed innovative housing strategies and determine an appropriate score for the strategy. Strategies will be rewarded 2-5 points based on the overall projected effectiveness of the strategy.

Innovative Housing Strategy Ideas

Provided below are a few innovative housing strategy ideas that would be welcomed as part of the Housing Smart Communities Initiative.

Community Land Trusts

A community land trust (CLT) is a structure that allows land to be held “in trust” for community needs, outside of the influence of market pressures. A CLT is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of CLT residents, community residents and public representatives that provide lasting community assets and shared equity homeownership opportunities for families and communities. One of the most unique aspects of a CLT is that it separates the ownership of land from the ownership of the buildings on that land. This separation of land and building allows homeowners and businesses to have control and security as owners, while the community has a backstop to ensure that when the land changes hands it stays affordable and in community-serving uses.

Read more here: Grounded Solutions Network: Community Land Trusts

Adaptative Reuse for Housing

Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for. To help alleviate the housing crisis, communities can develop ordinances, programs, and overlay districts to help incentivize and streamline the development of new housing projects in areas previously zoned for other uses (i.e., commercial or office uses).

Read more here: American Planning Association: How Adaptive Reuse Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis

Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA)

Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) policies provide tenants living in multi-family buildings with advance notice that the landlord is planning to sell their building and an opportunity to collectively purchase the building. TOPA is an emerging anti-displacement tool that can be used to preserve affordable rental housing stock, empower tenants, and stabilize low-income households.

Read more here: PolicyLink: Tenant/community opportunity to purchase

Increasing Access to Home Financing for Low-Income Borrowers

Many households and communities lack access to affordable financial services, creating a significant barrier to homeownership. Municipalities can work with non-profit organizations and financial institutions to provide financing information to homebuyers and help expand access to home financing mechanisms.

Read more here: HUD Users: Increasing Access to Sustainable Mortgages for Low-Income Borrowers

Tiny Homes and Tiny Home Communities

While there is no one definition for a tiny home, they are typically between 100-400 square feet. They are a dwelling to be used as permanent housing with permanent provisions for living, sleeping, and eating and may include provisions for cooking and sanitation. Similar to promoting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), municipalities can update zoning and building regulations to allow for the development of individual tiny homes or tiny home communities. Tiny homes can also serve as a transitional housing option for unhoused individuals and families.

Read more here: American Planning Association: Practice Tiny Homes