Housing video illustrates complex issue still unresolved

Workshops offered for those facing evictions when rent moratoriums end


By Regina Clarkin

The subject of affordable housing is as complex and dynamic as the hot real estate market that Peekskill is experiencing. Government leaders, developers and citizens all have varying opinions on what constitutes affordable housing. A housing assessment conducted by Westchester County three years ago showed that 36 percent of Peekskill residents were ‘severely cost burdened’ when it came to housing. 

While developers were lining up to build in Peekskill, the Common Council has been discussing for over a year an Affordable Housing Ordinance that would require a certain percent of units in all new developments containing five or more residences be designated as affordable. Certain areas in Peekskill are in a federal opportunity zone, one of 8,700 economically distressed areas designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to attract private investment to help spur economic development and create jobs.

 At last week’s work session the Council spent 30 minutes talking about what number to use to calculate affordability: Westchester County’s Area Median Income (AMI) of $102,000; or Peekskill’s Median Income of $57,000. The discussion ended by suggesting the draft ordinance be sent to the Planning Commission for input and then schedule a public hearing on the subject.   

Steven Dillard, a Peekskill resident who moved here 18 years ago from Ossining when he was priced out of the housing market said he’s seeing the same thing happen in Peekskill now.  Dillard, 52, who is chairperson of the NAACP’s Economic Empowerment Committee, felt there was a need for more conversation around the subject, so he created a video highlighting the problem and posted it to YouTube last week. His committee has created a survey, posted to the NAACP’s Facebook page, around housing and will be sharing the results in the next few weeks. 


Dillard said the purpose of his five minute video is to magnify the voices of the people who are facing a housing crisis. He interviewed people he knew in the community and filmed in front of two housing projects currently under construction, one on Central Avenue and another on Park Street. 

Also at the Council’s work session, Jessica Ganus, director of the city’s Section 8 Department, spoke about the 40 new landlords added to the list of available apartments. She said the increase (in units not just in Peekskill) came from persistent calls to landlords, working with realtors, and explaining that the Section 8 housing program is a guaranteed rental payment every month. If landlords are willing to take less money for a unit than what they can get on the market, they will be guaranteed a rent of $1,732 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, said Ganus.  

Ganus mentioned the impending threat of evictions for any residents of Peekskill when Covid related moratoriums end. She is hosting workshops that begin on Thursday, Aug. 26 at City Hall from 4 to 8 p.m. to help people fill out the very complex state form known as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The workshops will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays until Oct. 28. 

The workshops are open, by appointment, to any resident who is facing eviction. Residents do not have to be a Sections 8 client in order to receive help in filling out the form.  In order to schedule an appointment a resident needs to call (914) 734-4216 or go to the city’s website here and review what they need to bring to the workshop.