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Affordable Housing Organization Spotlight: RUPCO

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RUPCO's Energy Square project.
  • RUPCO's Energy Square project.

For 40 years, RUPCO—formerly known as the Rural Ulster Preservation Company—has been administering Section 8 rental vouchers, helping first-time home buyers, and working through the often arduous process of getting affordable housing approved and built.

Post-9/11 urban flight, the economic meltdown of 2008, the rise of Airbnb, and the pandemic have only exacerbated the issues inherent in trying to keep affordability real in a gorgeous place within a stone’s throw of one of the planet’s biggest, wealthiest metro areas. “Zoning has been so difficult in the Hudson Valley because we all want to preserve the beauty of the environment,” says RUPCO Executive Director Kevin O’Connor, “and a lot of people want to close the gate behind them. But right now the situation is beyond critical.”

RUPCO has created around 700 units of affordable housing in the region. In progress right now: East End II, 61 affordable rental units scattered through 22 buildings in Newburgh’s historic district that will feature onsite management and laundry facilities, with trash and snow removal included. All properties remain on the tax rolls. The goal, says O’Connor, has to be “home plus opportunity”—homes need to be climate-resilient, walkable, transit-adjacent, and ideally flexible enough to be offices and/or recovery wards should a family member be taken ill.

“Multiple approaches are being pursued, and it’s going to take time,” says O’Connor. “Right now, many people are aware and awake because they’re personally affected. Our building projects are part of it; along with rent controls, just eviction laws, mixed-use zoning, and higher-density zoning. These factors, and the many roles housing is asked to serve, all intersect and they all really matter. But it can be done. As I’ve said at so many meetings, a great town can house everyone, and you’re not a great town until you can house everyone.”

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