Michael Berg considers it his mission to find shelter for families in desperate need, but he says an ongoing housing emergency has made it exceedingly difficult in Ulster County.
"It has been exacerbated, but not created, by the pandemic," said Berg, executive director of Family of Woodstock. "But we didn’t have enough affordable housing prior to the pandemic."
Berg oversees the nonprofit and its four shelters and two transitional living programs in Ulster County.
What You Need To Know
- The median home price in Ulster County has gone up 41% in five years
- There are more than 300 Ulster County residents in emergency shelters and more than 50 living in the streets
- The Ulster County comptroller says the county is experiencing a housing crisis
Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher released a report on emergency housing in the county last month. She says things aren't good.
"We have a housing crisis on our hands here in Ulster County," she said.
More than 300 people are estimated to live in emergency shelters and more than 50 are on the streets.
"It's very hard to address the rest of the issues in your life when you don’t have a stable living situation," said Berg.
According to the comptroller's report, individuals are staying in shelters or motels for an average of 70 nights, and families are staying for about 97.
"Once the people are taken into the shelter, we're not gonna put them back out on the street, so they stay longer," said Berg.
He says the eviction moratorium made it even harder to find permanent housing because people are staying in apartments longer, decreasing the number of available apartments for rent.
Gallagher said the rise of Airbnbs and other short-term rentals has also exacerbated the housing crisis.
"Airbnb owners, many of them are using that to supplement their income, that makes a lot of sense, but they can get a lot more income and a lot more revenue selling through short-term rentals than they can get for permanent housing supply," Gallagher said.
And that means it's harder for the families Berg serves to find a suitable home.
Gallagher wants to see municipalities cap the number of short-term rentals or Airbnbs in their communities and more development of affordable housing.
Berg says that won't address the immediate emergency.
"We're gonna lose people that have lived their whole lives here because they can't afford to, because the entry level jobs do not pay the cost of housing, so we have to solve this problem," he said.