Newburgh City Council Adopts Equitable Housing Report

In a unanimous vote held on June 14th, 2021, the Newburgh City Council adopted the Newburgh Housing Report, a study commissioned by the Leviticus Fund, that offers data-driven housing policy recommendations, goals and action steps to address the city’s unmet housing needs.

Just prior to the vote, council members noted the urgency of the city’s housing crisis and how the report’s framework is “really a game-changer” that opens new possibilities to advance the city’s long-term housing and equitable revitalization strategies.

“We are trying to change the look of the city, and we don’t want people to be displaced,” said Mayor Torrance Harvey during the council meeting. “There is a lot of work that we will be doing with this great plan provided by the Leviticus Fund, and Kevin Dwarka and his team. I am very proud of this first step of many steps to get this housing work done.”

Two working papers provide the framework for the report, which is based on a year-long study and analysis of Newburgh’s demographic patterns, resident-owned and rental housing conditions, and economic trends. The report benefitted from strong community-level participation from the city’s administration and Newburgh’s Planning Department, coupled with active engagement of residents and community-stakeholders through Zoom discussions, dual language surveys, and one-on-one phone calls.

Working Paper I: Housing Needs Assessment captures and synthesizes all of the quantitative and qualitative data related to the city’s demographic composition, housing conditions and economic trends and is organized in a way to support its usage in strategic planning or competitive funding applications pursued by the city and local nonprofits.

Working Paper II: Housing Policy Framework focuses on the policy themes of Equity, Livability and Vitality. The report identifies these three themes as “interlocking housing needs” and critical building blocks for the city to draft any new housing policies. Within these policy themes, the report provides in-depth recommendations for preventing housing discrimination, racial segregation, and displacement, reducing housing costs, as well as preserving and expanding the city’s affordable housing supply.

“The Newburgh Housing Report provides a valuable roadmap for the city to address the severity of the housing cost burden faced by its residents and homeowners,” said Greg Maher, Executive Director of the Leviticus Fund. “It also contains a set of coordinated policies and recommended actions for the redevelopment of underutilized commercial properties that will create new pathways for affordable homeownership.”

“We are especially grateful for the level of participation and guidance provided by the Newburgh City Council, the city’s Department of Planning and Development, the Newburgh Housing Coalition and the residents of Newburgh,” Mr. Maher added. “Their insights and concerns added to the depth and value of this report.”

The Newburgh Housing Report was supported by a generous investment to the Leviticus Fund from JPMorgan Chase Foundation as part of their neighborhood development work.

“The insights and framework from the Newburgh Housing Report align with our commitment to supporting community development initiatives that drive social and financial opportunities across the U.S.,” said David Walsh, Managing Director, Community Development Banking, Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is supporting Newburgh Housing and their innovative housing solutions to help improve housing affordability and wealth creation in low-income and diverse communities.”

The report incorporates a three-phase action plan that distinguishes items that can be completed within 12 months, a one-to-two-year implementation timeline, and more complex, longer-term actions, including:

  • Document the city’s experience with urban renewal, displacement and segregation
  • Update the city’s Fair Housing laws and enforcement mechanisms
  • Strengthen and expanding eviction prevention programs
  • Adopt mandatory inclusionary housing options for multifamily development on city- and privately-owned land
  • Update Newburgh Comprehensive Plan with economic development strategies
  • Educate tenants about the building code and involve them in code enforcement process
  • Expand shelter facilities and permanent housing for the city’s homeless and most vulnerable population

The Leviticus Fund managed the overall work to create the report, with technical guidance provided by Kevin Dwarka LLC, a land use and economic consulting firm, and community engagement provided by Pace Land Use Law Center.