Sign of the times

Two Wilmington renters search for housing while building goes up for sale

Best friends and Wilmington residents Tony Hanf and Kim Scarpa have been searching for housing in the area, but they have been unsuccessful so far. (Provided photo)

WILMINGTON — Imagine being kicked out of your building because the owner sells. Then imagine you move into another building and the same thing happens less than two years later. This happened to Tony Hanf.

Hanf has been a member of the community for the past 11 years. He is an EMT in Wilmington and works at the state Department of Environmental Conservation with the forest ranger dispatch at Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook.

Hanf’s best friend Kim Scarpa is in the same boat. She has lived in a separate apartment in the same building in Wilmington for the last seven years. Scarpa has worked at Green Goddess Natural Market in Lake Placid for 17 years.

Hanf said their building owner never really meant to get into the landlord business.

“She lived in the building, and the building was for sale,” he said. “She needed a place for her family to live, so she bought it.”

Kim Scarpa’s cat, Kitty Gaga (Provided photo)

When contacted on July 2, the landlord confirmed that it was not her initial intention to become a landlord. Otherwise, she declined to comment and wished not to be identified for this story.

The landlord confirmed that she has not yet received any offers on the building. Therefore, Hanf and Scarpa said they do not have a set date they must be out of the house. In the interest of being proactive, however, they’ve started searching for housing already.

Living in a tourist area, Hanf said home prices are expensive, which then trickles down into expensive rent.

“If you can’t buy a house, then you’re forced to rent. If you’re forced to rent, then the landlords can charge whatever they want,” he said.

Short-term rentals and Airbnbs cause a lot of issues in the area when it comes to housing. Hanf asserted that some people are eager to be Airbnb hosts to make a profit without thinking much about the community at large.

Tony Hanf’s cat, Olenna Tyrell (Provided photo)

In addition to looking for housing in a tourist area, Hanf and Scarpa are at even more of a disadvantage because they have pets. They each have two cats.

Scarpa said she and Hanf are responsible pet owners, though she understands a lot of people are not and that can give landlords reservations.

“It’s unfair,” Hanf said. “We’ve chosen to have cats instead of children, but pets are almost always an immediate no for landlords.”

Hanf said he knows people who have come up to the Lake Placid area for a short time and because they are short-term renters, they end up having better luck finding housing than those willing to live and work in the area.

It’s not just those looking for housing that are affected by the high cost of living. Business owners and consumers are touched by the problem, too. Hanf said he hears people talk about the lack of workers in the area.

“They always complain the businesses don’t have workers and no one wants to work anymore,” he said. “Well, it’s because no one can afford to live anywhere close.”

In their search, the only places they’ve found that meet their exact needs are as far as Plattsburgh or even Burlington.

With their jobs, Hanf said this just is not really a viable option for them.

“If we have to do that, I guess we would have to. But especially in the winter, commuting over an hour to go to work each day is a little ridiculous,” he said.

The two have looked at a two-bedroom place in Saranac Lake that may become available in mid-July. However, with their cats, jobs and uncertainty surrounding the sale of their current building, this option is not ideal.

“I’d like to be either close to Ray Brook or close to Wilmington. Especially if I’m doing overnight shifts in Wilmington, if I don’t have a place to live in Wilmington, I’d have to sleep on an air mattress at the station,” he said.

The Wilmington Town Council passed a law on June 11 that limited short-term rental licenses to 150 a year. Hanf said this is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.

“Now, you need to provide affordable housing as well,” he said.

If their current building were to be bought and rented out by a different owner, Hanf and Scarpa said they would not necessarily want to stay there, as the building needs renovations.

“Even if new owners were to renovate, they would still probably kick us out to do those renovations and we’d be stuck anyways,” Hanf said.

Scarpa said they have even looked at campers on Facebook Marketplace as a last resort. Though they have generous friends in the area who could spare a couch or an extra room, Hanf said asking someone to house both them and their cats is a lot.

“Rural communities are hurting for first responders,” he said.

Due to little or unaffordable housing, however, those first responders are moving to bigger cities for a better chance of finding a place to live.

Hanf and Scarpa are hopeful their story can kickstart not just a conversation about local housing but action to improve the situation.

“The conversations have been had,” Hanf said. “I think it’s important for people to understand we are real people actually going through this.”

Ideally, Hanf and Scarpa are looking for a three-bedroom place in the area that is pet-friendly.

Contact Hanf at placidperfection@gmail.com with any information regarding possible housing for the two.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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