All About Housing Solutions
RUPCO Cares For The Entire Region
By Jodi La Marco
Since 1981, RUPCO has been an advocate for affordable housing in the Hudson Valley. “In a nutshell, we create homes, support people, and improve communities across a broad spectrum of community development solutions,” says Tara Collins, Director of Communications and Resource Development at RUPCO. Connecting tenants with rental assistance, helping first-time homebuyers on their path to homeownership, and creating affordable and innovative housing developments are just a few ways the nonprofit is helping to shape and revitalize communities.
“We started out with the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which connects rental assistance with tenants of modest incomes and landlords willing to participate in the program,” explains Collins. “We are in a crisis when it comes to housing for people of modest means. More than 50 percent of Americans who are renting are spending more than 50 percent of their income on their housing. When people are spending that much money on housing, they don’t have disposable income to spend at local businesses.” The Housing Choice Voucher Program helps to keep renters below the 50 percent threshold by allowing participants to pay between 30 and 40 percent of their adjusted monthly income toward rent and utilities. The remainder of the rent is paid through the program subsidy.
Further up the spectrum of home-seekers are those looking to graduate from renting to owning. “Last year we helped 103 families buy their first home,” says Collins. Although the path to homeownership can be daunting, RUPCO lights the way through education. “We don’t do mortgages, but we help connect the dots between the future homeowner and all of the players who are involved, like the mortgage lender, attorneys, etc. During a homebuyer education class, different people from the community come in and share their expertise. It helps people chunk out that mountain that you have to summit to buy your first home.We also help people with financial literacy to get them mortgage ready.”
RUPCO’s homebuyer education program also qualifies buyers for grants and loans. “Right now in Greene County we have a first-time home buyer grant program for qualified households who want to buy their first home,” says Collins. “Up to $25,000 can be applied to things like down payments, closing costs, and post-closing rehab. Many people don’t realize that there are first-time homebuyer grants out there.”
Even those who already own a home can benefit from the organization’s programs. “If you’re in your home and you don’t want to go into foreclosure, we have financial literacy counseling where a counselor can look at your expenditures and help you live within your means. Knowing that you can come to RUPCO for assistance no matter where you are on the housing spectrum is where we’re at,” Collins explains.
Perhaps the most exciting component of RUPCO’s work can be found in the new housing developments the nonprofit is bringing online. The Lace Mill, which opened in 2016, houses 55 apartments intended for artists. “This is a really cool example of adaptive reuse of a structure that had lain vacant and underutilized for close to three decades,” Collins says.“The Lace Mill has art galleries and shows and performances that are open to the public. That has become a huge community asset. We brought people to an area that didn’t have people. New businesses are popping up. It has revitalized that section of Midtown Kingston.”
The success of the Lace Mill is an example of how affordable housing can bring positive changes to a neighborhood. “Housing really is the linchpin for strong, vibrant, and diverse communities. When people are spending a lot of money on housing, they don’t have disposable income to spend at local businesses,” Collins reiterates. “Affordable housing benefits everybody because it brings density into neighborhoods. It brings people with money into neighborhoods so that businesses have business and can in turn hire people and create jobs.”
Not far from the Lace Mill, a new proposed project is on track to become the first of its kind in the area. Energy Square is a mixed income, 57-apartment building which aims to be “net zero.” “‘Net zero’ means that we are striving to produce enough energy through photovoltaic panels to match the energy usage of the residence and the building as a whole,” Collins explains.
Another futureRUPCO project in Kingston will be known as The Metro. Although the project does not incorporate housing, it aims to promote community growth by taking advantage of the growing television and movie production industry in the Hudson Valley. “We are partnering with Stockade Arts. They’re all about training people in the film and TV arts,” Collins says.“The film and TV industry as a whole is looking to New York because of the new tax credits which are available. The Metro is going to have a TV and film studio, post production facility and training center. It will also have a ‘makers space’ which will be available to creative entrepreneurs.”
In addition to The Metro and Energy Square, RUPCO is also working on a senior housing development on Flatbush Avenue in Kingston known as Landmark Place, and several housing developments in Newburgh. Together with the nonprofit’s other efforts, Collins expects these projects to breathe new life into underappreciated parts of our region. “I think you’re going to see this area continue to grow and attract people from the outside. It’s also important to remember the people who have lived here and have made this community what it is. We want them to stay, too. Everybody deserves a place to call home.”