Regional Activity

Housing Market Profiles

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York

Similar to many other urban centers in Upstate New York, the city of Albany, which is the largest population center in the region, lost population during the previous decade. Troy, the largest population center in Rensselaer County, is home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the focal point for high-technology research and development projects in the area. Smaller incubator technology parks that foster research into such subjects as alternative power systems and computer-related innovations have developed close by. Several significant economic developments are under way in the metropolitan area including a $400 million International SEMATECH technology program to provide research for developing the next generation of computer chips. Tokyo Electron, a microchips manufacturer, plans to develop a $300 million research center affiliated with the Albany NanoTech Complex at the University at Albany. Despite a downturn in manufacturing employment in Schenectady County, General Electric (GE) Corporation remains a major employer in this market area and continues to invest in its area research facilities.

The metropolitan area has had a relatively low rate of population growth during the past 13 years. Total population for the 6-county metropolitan area increased by less than 20,000 between the 1990 Census and the 2000 Census, an annual growth rate of 0.2 percent. From 2000 through July 2002 it is estimated that the population grew by 5,500.

The size of the public-sector workforce moderates the effects of adverse economic activity on the area. Total nonfarm employment declined by only 100 jobs in the 12 months ending May 2003. Job losses were concentrated in the manufacturing sector, specifically in high-wage nondurable goods-producing industries. The total loss, 2,300 jobs, was partly offset by gains in the services sector. The government and services sectors in the Albany metropolitan area are expected to remain the largest sources of employment gains for the near future.

Since 1995 single-family construction in the metropolitan area has been stable, averaging 2,600 units annually. Multifamily permit activity has consistently declined from a high of more than 1,000 units in 1998 to fewer than 500 units in 2002. In the first 6 months of 2003 building permit activity totaled 1,016 units, 80 of which are single-family homes.

Saratoga County has been the most active area for new construction in the metropolitan area. Interstate 87 has strongly influenced the local commuting patterns in the metropolitan area and southern Saratoga County has extensive areas where residential subdivisions can be developed. Clifton Park and Halfmoon townships, in the southern part of the county, recorded the largest share of residential construction. In Albany County, the Bethlehem and Colonie townships are the centers of development. Development in the other four counties in the metropolitan area is minimal.

Existing home sales and prices in the metropolitan area have been very steady during the past 24 months despite the lack of employment growth. Low mortgage interest rates have supported the markets for both first-time and move-up buyers. The median sales price for a single-family home in Saratoga County increased 12 percent from 2001 to 2002 to $159,000, and prices in Albany County increased 7 percent during the same period. During the first 5 months of 2003, 516 homes were sold at an average price of $105,000, a 7-percent increase over 1 year ago.

The rental market remains balanced with an estimated vacancy rate of 7 percent in Albany and Saratoga Counties. Rent increases have been nominal, ranging from 1 to 3 percent. Assisted rental housing is located primarily in the central cities of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy. Efforts to preserve the stock of assisted rental housing continue. Older public housing units are being upgraded and several rehabilitation programs have been completed. Construction is now complete on a HOPE VI project that involved the demolition of 292 units in the Corning Homes project and subsequent construction of 134 single-family homes in the Arbor Hill neighborhood. This project is almost complete and is expected to spark future rehabilitation efforts. Subsidized housing units within the metropolitan area, including low-income public housing units, have waiting lists.

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