The Watertown Daily Times reports today that Ogdensburg is selling the last house in its Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program, run through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), aims to “stabiliz[e] communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment…through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes and residential properties.”
Ogdensburg has already sold two other houses (the addresses are in the article if you’re interested) but the impression I’m getting from the paper is that city officials are eager to wash their hands of a program that Ogdensburg officials and the city council have found onerously regulated, difficult to implement, and generally not as helpful as it could have been.
Now, we know housing is a problem in the North Country, albeit not as visible a problem as it is in urban areas where you can see people sleeping outdoors. NCPR did a series on on this very issue back in 2004. Earlier this month, North Country Now spoke with St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services Commissioner Chris Rediehs about homelessness in our area. He said more than 220 homeless people had visited the DSS in the previous year, looking for a place to stay. And he said that number (in a county whose population totals 111,690) doesn’t represent the true number of homeless.
Add to this many who aren’t technically homeless but who are living in substandard, temporary, overcrowded or otherwise inadequate housing because they can’t afford anything better. This article also includes information for people who may be looking for assistance, and here’s the DSS website.
The problems aren’t the same throughout the region: In the Fort Drum area, the struggle is to create affordable housing for the burgeoning population there (as opposed to Ogdensburg’s use of a program designed to stabilize communities with high rates of abandonment.) Meanwhile, in Canton, where I live, it seems every fourth house is for sale, some have been since I moved to the area in spring of 2011, and some are empty — at the same time it’s difficult for renters to find decent places to live in the area.
So to your mind, what’s the principal problem here? What’s the solution? Have you had to live in housing situations that were less-than-ideal situations because of the housing market or for other reasons? Have you taken advantage of federal, or state, or local, housing programs? Please enlighten.