It’s just the law of supply and demand, which has not been repealed by the ongoing boom in southern Saratoga County.
The more new houses you build, the less existing homes are worth. So why would town, planning and zoning boards around here so often be willing to change the rules to permit housing developments pretty much anywhere? Because they don’t appreciate supply and demand.
They see the area booming, much more so than the rest of upstate New York, so they assume the rising tide of demand lifts all boats, and all house prices. But it doesn’t. Even in Malta, home of GlobalFoundries and three Northway exits, the value of most people’s homes has been dropping.
The statistics can be hard to find in general. The Capital District Regional Planning Commission has some, but not for the last four years. And most people assume that with the housing bubble of 2007-08 long behind us, house prices have continued their climb. But they haven’t.
This was discovered by my wife Barbara, who is a member (as I used to be before her, and before I worked at the Journal) of Malta’s Open Space, Agricultural and Trails Committee. It’s a discovery somewhat startling to me and others to whom she talked; perhaps we should not have been surprised.
Barbara was aware that our own house had failed to add value since we bought it in 2006, and wondered how other people we know — not just in our neighborhood but all over town — and local public officials, were doing. And through looking at 20-odd properties she found out, as anyone can by going online, that most homes have been losing value.
From a town web site there is a link to a county site (in collaboration with a software company) through which you can get information about taxable property in town, including that of your neighbors and civic leaders. That may sound a little creepy, and I won’t put anyone’s business up here, but the information is out there, and you can get it. In the old days, newspapermen like me had to pore over musty documents in government offices. Now anyone can point and click.
It so happens that for environmental and other reasons, I favor the preservation of farmland and other open space. But the bottom line is, for most residents of this area, when their towns permit new housing developments, it’s bad for their bottom line. It’s true that lower home values may keep your taxes down, but that doesn’t compensate for a lower price when it comes time to sell your house.
My wife is also a member of the town’s Democratic Committee. I’m a member of the other party, and since 1992 (eight years after our marriage) we have cancelled out each other’s votes at presidential elections.
But it seems to me this is a political issue which should be grasped and explained by any politician from this area who wants future success. Stopping the spread of housing developments isn’t just good for farms and the environment, doesn’t just keep traffic and public costs down, and the area looking pretty and a desirable place to live: It has a direct impact on the value of most people’s biggest asset. Permitting those developments lowers the value of existing homes.
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