Affordable housing rare commodity

NEWBURGH: Aging public housing improves, but questions remain about affordability.

This is how hard it is for poor people to find an apartment in the city of Newburgh: 400 people are on a waiting list for federally subsidized, low-income housing run by the Newburgh Housing Authority.

It’s a tight market for the poorest residents, and while Newburgh’s public housing is improving, it’s not clear whether there’s enough to go around.

The problem, according to the city’s own Housing and Community Development Plan, places an “undue cost burden on households to find decent, affordable housing.”

About 65 percent of the city’s 2,253 extremely low-income households spend more than half of each month’s income just on rent, the plan said.

The city’s four housing complexes are home to some 800 people. Several years ago, after the agency accumulated more than $2 million in water and electric bills it couldn’t pay, it sold two of complexes to a private developer.

The developer, Sheldrake Corp. and its CEO, investor J. Christopher Daly, promised a $5.5 million renovation of

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the 120-unit John T. Kenney Apartments. He also promised $1 million in electrical and boiler work at the 85-unit Bourne Apartments.

But will privatization help solve the housing crunch? Some hail the idea as a triumph of efficiency. Others fear the profit-motivated private sector will displace the poorest.

Sonia Miranda, who has lived in the complex 20 years, praised Sheldrake’s renovations to her apartment.

“Everything, everything is new,” she said. Her apartment, like others, has new linoleum floors, fresh white walls and new appliances. They even removed the wall between the living room and what was once a cramped laundry room. Now she enjoys a spacious living/dining area.


have no complaints,” Miranda said. “You tell them anything and they fix it real fast.”

But another tenant, a woman in her 30s who grew up in Kenney, has doubts.

“The rents went sky high,” said the woman, who holds a blue-collar job at a large company.

A three-bedroom is more than $900 a month, said the woman, who asked not to be identified. A two-bedroom costs between $600 and $775, too expensive for apartments constructed for the poor, she said.

The woman said the rent is a problem for people like her mother, a retired cleaning worker on Social Security. After paying rent on her one-bedroom her mother is left with $100.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said the woman.

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