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Demand for low-income housing in Albany

December 31, 2010

by Darren Boysen

Demand for housing at St.Vincent’s Apartments on Yates Street continue to grow in a city where public housing needs are great. Some 6,000 applicants are waiting for public housing in Albany, and 2,867 are awaiting Section  8 vouchers, according to the city’s Housing Authority.

“The need for affordable housing is growing, specifically for seniors,” said Rhonda Finehout, director of housing management for DePaul Housing. DePaul Housing Management, under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, manages the St. Vincent’s apartment complex along with other apartments throughout the Capital Region. St.Vincent’s employs three full-timers, a manager and two maintenance workers.

Front of St. Vincent’s. photo by (Darren Boysen)

“It’s one of the only buildings DePaul has in the city. It’s convenient and on the bus line,” said Lorraine Caroccia, community manager at the complex. The Pine Hills location is crucial for the elderly and mobility-impaired tenants who use public transportation.

Currently 60 residents occupy 56 out of 59 apartments. Of the 59 apartments, 10 are specialized for the mobility-impaired. Special features for the mobility-impaired include lower counter tops and cutouts in the counters for wheelchair access. Additional features are added at no additional cost to the tenants after a review process is completed.

At the start of each fiscal year, 40% of the unoccupied apartments must be made available to extremely low-income people, according to the tenant selection plan. To meet this requirement, the income for one person cannot exceed $15,900 or $18,150 for a two-person household. “There is a huge need for people who are extremely low income,” said Patty Stempsey, from the Albany Housing Authority.

The eligibility requirements for St. Vincent’s apartments are complicated because of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements, which provides federal funding to accommodate people with the greatest need. Tenants must be 62 years old or “non-elderly mobility-impaired person between the ages of 18 and 61 in need of the accessibility features of an apartment designed for the mobility impaired,” according to the tenant selection plan. Residents must also be able to live independently, with the ability to do their own cooking, cleaning, and other daily tasks.

Residents who apply for St. Vincent’s generally wait six months for a unit to become available. The wait for mobility-impaired apartments is approximately two years, because there are only 10 in the building.

In addition to senior and low-income residents, victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are also eligible to live at St. Vincent’s apartments. The tenant selection plan states that those applicants “must provide certification beyond self certification of the domestic violence.” Verification of the violence can come from social agencies, domestic violence advocates, or the police.

The building itself is old. It was formerly the Vincentian Institute, a Catholic high school from 1917-1977. Yet, the interior is up-to-date with many renovations. The roof was replaced recently, new windows were installed, and the elevator was upgraded. As units become open, the floors and kitchens are replaced.

The diverse population makes St. Vincent’s a unique place. “The resident population itself is very supportive and connected, looking out for each other,” said Finehout. The residents have their own tenant association that organizes events including coffee hours, Christmas parties and Wii bowling. Residents have planned summer outings to farmers markets and will take a bus trip to see the holiday lights in Washington Park. -30-

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