The Watertown City Council faces another housing dilemma tonight as the members discuss extending a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement they approved two years ago to Creek Wood Apartments.
This project has won state support because it will provide 75 units at less than market rates. The project is aimed specifically at longtime city residents who are feeling the strain of rising rents, stagnant wages and lack of jobs in the city.
While Jefferson County and the city have prospered during the boom this last decade from the growth of Fort Drum, a large slice of the population has been left behind. They watch rents rise dramatically because the market has not caught up to the demand for housing, forcing many people to settle for apartments which have not been maintained.
Market-rate housing is under construction and because of New York state support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, affordable housing units are coming on the market. The Creek Wood project will help fill that niche.
In addition, this new project along with the first phase of Creek Wood and a substantial portion of Summit Woods have been built in the city, saving taxpayers enormous investments in additional infrastructure.
The City Council has a chance to help many of its residents achieve better and more affordable living conditions by extending the tax deal approved by the council in 2010.
The council should be proud of what is has accomplished in providing a platform to rejuvenate Watertowns housing stock and make the city a better place for everyone to live. To change directions and back out of a policy which benefits so many people struggling to find a decent apartment at an affordable rent would be a sad message. Disadvantaged residents should not be ignored because the City Council is conspiring with landlords to keep rents high by reducing the supply of apartments in a market where demand exceeds supply.
Watertown needs more apartments and the city should proudly accept Gov. Cuomos offer of aid to bring the housing market into balance.