The Regional Plan Association (RPA), self-described as the nation’s oldest independent urban research & advocacy organization, works to improve the prosperity, infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life of the New York-Connecticut-New Jersey metropolitan region. The RPA has embarked on its Fourth Regional Plan – a blueprint for the region’s next 25 years; the last one was written in 1997, and the first in 1929.

I attended a recent RPA listening session sponsored by Pattern for Progress, held at SUNY New Paltz on January 14th. I was tinkled pink to learn that already, RPA was hearing loud and clear, the top issues from the region were jobs, affordable housing and taxes. Yes, affordable housing at the pinnacle of issues facing the region! As a “Houser” for the past 27 years, I can’t tell you how great it feels to see the issue of affordable housing rise to this level of importance and attention it so richly deserves.

Concurrently, Governor Cuomo announced his budget that is teeming over with $5 billion of extra cash coming from legal settlements. While it may not be enough or reach all of the folks most affected by the recent foreclosure debacle and economic downturn, the Governor is moving in the right direction with significant housing, quality of life and economic development initiatives statewide. In particular, the Governor has called for stable operating funding of the Rural & Neighborhood Preservation Companies with an additional $20-million for preservation program activities. Governor Cuomo has also called for significant funding of the State’s housing capital programs that RUPCO has used to create housing in Ellenville, Woodstock, Kingston and beyond; he has also added money for housing programs that fund a wide range of activities including homebuying assistance, housing rehabilitation, accessibility modifications, emergency home repairs and energy-efficiency programs. Homeless housing, and in particular, supportive housing programs for a wide range of vulnerable populations – programs that successfully link health and housing for better outcomes – are seeing unprecedented levels of funding in this year’s budget. In total, Governor Cuomo has proposed nearly a half billion dollars in settlement funds for affordable housing initiatives representing a significant increase over last year’s appropriation.

Housing is a broad continuum and home matters to everyone! Creating enough affordable, safe, accessible and visible, energy-efficient housing with access to transportation, jobs, good schools, services and other quality of life amenities is frankly, a tall order. This year, we are off to a great start by moving the topic to the top of the priority heap and bringing significant resources to bear. I look forward to the challenging and exciting collaborative work of bringing resources home to the Hudson River Valley and working towards creating great communities.

My definition of a great community? Simple: one that can house everyone in the community.

Kevin O’Connor is RUPCO’s  Chief Executive Officer and can be reached at 845- 331-2140, ext. 206 or by email at [email protected]

Check out the Regional Plan Association at www.rpa.org.

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