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Study Shows Rural Areas Continue to Struggle

New York continues to see a decline in population, with rural counties being hit the hardest, according to a report commissioned by the Rural Housing Coalition. The State of Rural New York report highlights that the population loss is twice the rate of urban counties, with Chenango, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, and Schoharie County experiencing the biggest losses between 2010 and 2020. Schoharie County, in particular, suffered a 9.3% decline in population.

The report also reveals that rural populations have a higher average age and lower education levels than their urban counterparts, and have lost more job opportunities than urban counties. This situation is further compounded by the aging housing stock and high cost of accessibility modifications for seniors, making it challenging for them to stay in their communities.

To address this problem, the Rural Housing Coalition is requesting a $3 million increase in funding for the ACCESS to HOME program, which supports disabled and senior citizen homeowners with expenses such as wheelchair ramps and bathroom handrails. The organization is also seeking $6 million for the RESTORE program, which was cut from the Executive Budget, to fund emergency repairs for low- and moderate-income seniors’ homes.

Additionally, the report highlights the need for the Small Rental Development Initiative (SRDI) to support the construction or rehabilitation of small rental projects of up to 20 units. The SRDI was funded at $7 million last year but was zeroed out in the Executive Budget.

The Rural Housing Coalition is urging policymakers to use the report’s findings to create a comprehensive effort to reverse the population decline through investments in housing and infrastructure. The Rural Preservation Program (RPP), which has been underfunded for many years, should also be fully funded as rural preservation companies make up the backbone of the state’s housing initiatives in rural areas.

The Rural Housing Coalition of New York is committed to revitalizing rural New York by strengthening housing and community development providers. The organization provides training and technical assistance, organizational capacity development, and raises public awareness and advocacy for rural housing and community development providers.

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