County will do housing analysis to guide possible development in the future

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2021 at 11:51 am

Legislator says county ‘35 years behind the times’ with some land use policies

This chart prepared by the Orleans County Department of Planning shows the number of building permits issued for new single-family houses in Orleans County since 2003.

ALBION — The Orleans County Legislature approved spending $5,000 on Wednesday for a housing market analysis that could show emerging trends to help guide development and also bring more people to live in the community.

The number of new housing permits for single family residences has dropped from 76 in 2004 and 83 in 2004 to below 30 every year since 2007. The county had 16 permits for new houses in 2017, 17 in 2018 and 19 in 2019, according to data from the Orleans County Department of Planning.

Legislator Ken DeRoller, R-Kendall, pushed for the study. He worries about a shrinking population in the county, particularly with student enrollment dropping by about 50 percent in the past 20 years, from 8,400 in all five public school districts to about 4,300 right now.

DeRoller believes the small towns and rural communities have more appeal to young families and senior citizens since the Covid-19 pandemic, but DeRoller said the county may not have the right type of housing to attract more people.

The market analysis from LaBella Associates will look at supply, demand, relevant demographics and community development.

DeRoller has been a part of local waterfront development committees along Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal. He said he sees big potential in particular for housing along the canal. The market analysis could lead to more development with the desired type of housing in the county, boosting the tax base and bringing more vitality to Orleans.

One of the seven county legislators, Don Allport, opposed spending the money for a market analysis. Allport, R-Gaines, said private developers should do their own analysis. Allport said the real estate has been selling briskly, often over the asking price in the past year.

“It is definitely a sellers’ market,” Allport said during Wednesday’s Legislature meeting.

In Orleans County, the average sale for single-family residences was up from $109,820 in 2019 to $122,313 in 2020, with an increase in buyers from Buffalo, Rochester and other metro areas. That includes 886 listings.

DeRoller said there isn’t enough inventory right now for housing in the county. The market analysis may show local governments need to modify some zoning regulations to facilitate new developments.

The county is “35 years behind the times” with some of its land use policies, DeRoller said.

“This $5,000 (market analysis) gives us a view into the future,” he said.