WAVERLY — The Waverly Planning Board on Tuesday continued its development of the village’s comprehensive plan — which was last updated in the 1980s — by looking at data on the municipality’s housing stock and what could be done to improve it.

Once again enlisting the help of Thoma Development Consultants — the firm hired by the village to assist with the plan — representatives from the company presented data on the state of the municipality’s housing.

“The Village of Waverly has become more and more of a ‘bedroom community’ to the larger communities of Sayre, Binghamton, Elmira and Ithaca,” Thoma officials stated. “As the importance of industry has declined, the community’s housing has increased as a community issue.”

A “bedroom community” was described as a place where people lived, but not a place where those same people necessarily worked, officials explained.

As far as what the physical housing stock looks like, according to information provided by Thoma, of the 2,004 total housing units in the village, 1,120 — or nearly 56 percent — are single unit detached structures. The next largest percentile was two-unit structures, which made out 405, or over 20 percent, of housing.

One of the main issues Thoma brought forward — and one of the problems consistently discussed by village officials — is the problem of vacant housing.

According to the Thoma information, total housing units from 2000 to 2010 dropped from 2,052 to 2,042. In that same time period, vacant housing units dropped from 175 to just 170.

However, by 2017, while the total housing stock dropped to 2,004, representing just a 1.9 percent reduction, vacant housing units skyrocketed to 249 units, or increased by over 31 percent.

“You definitely need to look at reducing your vacant housing (in the plan),” Senior Consultant Richard Cunningham said. “There are several things you can do for that, the simplest being — for lack of a better term — making the village a better place to live. There are certainly grants you can pursue as well to help rehabilitate the housing stock that you have.”

Cunningham went to explain that since housing demand is not exceptionally high, building brand new housing would likely not be advantageous — and that it would probably be better to rehab the aged housing already in the village.

“Sixty two percent of the village’s housing units were constructed prior to 1939, and approximately 80 percent is at least 50 years old,” he said. “So you have housing available, but in many cases it’s not adequate housing.

“In summary, with a stagnant population and an older housing stock, the village should focus its efforts on maintaining and improving the current housing stock,” Cunningham continued. “Development of affordable new housing, if any should be either to provide affordable rental opportunities to lower income residents, or be a type or a style that will attract residents from outside the community.”

Planning board member Rawley Filbin wondered aloud if a branding campaign could be utilized to encourage people to move to Waverly, and endorsed the idea of developing unique housing units like lofts in the downtown area.

Overall, Cunningham outlined a number of goals that the village should focus on in its plan in terms of housing:

  • Ensure all dwelling units are properly maintained and in compliance with state and local property and building codes.
  • Ensure all rental housing is consistent with zoning and code requirements, and that development of rental housing ... does negatively impact neighborhood character.
  • Future housing modifications or development will be consistent with the size, scale, aesthetics, architecture, character and historic nature of the village and its neighborhoods.
  • Promote energy efficiency for new or existing housing units.

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 232 or jwilliams@morning-times.com. Follow Johnny Williams on Twitter @johnnywMT

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