Ask just about any Oneonta, NY resident or someone who has either tried to move here or has moved here, "How is the housing situation when it comes to renting, leasing, or even buying a house?" They will tell you without missing a beat that there's a significant lack of affordable housing for anyone who is NOT a college student.

So what's the problem?
I recently sat down with Oneonta's new mayor, Mark Drnek to find out how things are going in terms of economic development in Oneonta. Drnek pointed to one of the biggest challenges that faces the city on that front and it's all about the lack of affordable housing for working individuals and families.

According to Drnek, it's a challenge he wants to meet head-on, with the ambitious goal of adding 1000 working people to Oneonta's population as soon as possible to boost the economy. The issue of creating enough affordable housing is high on the priority list for the city, after all, those additional people need somewhere to live that they can afford, right?

Who's to blame?
Many point the finger at those who own properties that house college students. They charge what most would consider unaffordably high prices for just each bedroom in a college house they own, but can we blame them? If you owned a house and were renting it out, wouldn't you want the most you could get for it? To college students, the rental prices are much cheaper than the cost of living on-campus. It's all relative. Drnek explains that it all boils down to their being plenty of property owners who want to make the nice profit that typically goes along with renting out housing to students but the downside is, there are so few rentals that anyone else can afford.

Add into that issue of many student rental properties, the current housing market in Oneonta. It's a seller's market with very houses for sale that would be good for a family.

How does this problem get solved?
That's a good question since the lack of affordable housing is a complicated issue but strides have been made thanks to Oneonta's Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant from New York State that was awarded in 2016. Some of that was used to create the Lofts on Dietz housing project that is currently under construction. That mixed-use building will have 60 units for artists in residence at market rate pricing.

The City has also helped Springbrook with a housing project that will start possibly this spring to renovate the Ford Block building, which Springbrook purchased to create several apartments that would be affordable housing for potential employees and other working professionals.

Drnek explains there is much more to be done to create affordable housing and he is planning a gathering of student rental property owners, city officials, realtors, and others to sit down and strategize ways of remedying the lack of affordable housing so that Oneonta has the opportunity to grow and prosper once again.

You can stay informed on City of Oneonta issues and what city officials are doing about them on the City of Oneonta's Youtube channel where you find all common council meetings and other city committee meetings. Mayor Mark Drnek also has a Facebook page where he posts a weekly video update where he talks about city affairs to residents.

Out of everything Drnek shared with me, one thing stood out, he kept emphasizing the need in our community to collaborate and that all voices are welcome "to the table". He would love to see Oneonta residents become more involved in the future of our city of the hills and invites open communication on any issue. Drnek especially welcomes ideas on how to make improvements in Oneonta so feel free to share your opinion on his Mayor Mark Drnek Facebook page.

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