Task force works to woo new residents to Northern NY

AU SABLE FORKS, N.Y. (WCAX) More people in a town leads to more visitors, more storefronts filled and a better economy. But getting people to come can be a tough sell.

Our Kelly O'Brien found out how a new task force in Essex County, New York, is trying to woo new residents.

"Could be revitalized and could really be a hub for tourism-based activity," said Mary Jane Lawrence of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

The communities of Jay, Upper Jay and Au Sable Forks are looking for more residents to call their empty buildings home, starting with employee housing.

"I've spoken to a lot of people, employers who say their employees have a tough time finding housing," said Renee McFarlin, the Clinton County economic development director.

A task force of residents, businesses and town officials hope to bridge the gap between communities to tackle this issue, all while bringing new faces into their community.

"Au Sable Forks is a really good geographic nexus between Clinton and Essex County in my opinion," McFarlin said.

The Jay community is roughly the in-between point of both destinations.

McFarlin says anecdotally she's heard the search for housing in the Plattsburgh and Lake Placid region is tough, even on the outskirts.

"You're not particularly likely to find rental housing if that is something you are looking for," she said.

The Jay task force hopes to lure those looking for a more secluded and affordable place to live and maybe that will fill up some of the empty storefronts.

"Maybe rent downstairs to a coffee shop, a diner, a pub and the upstairs could be apartments," Lawrence said.

The group is also looking into the possibility of building new, affordable townhouses or looking for someone who wants to purchase cheaper land and is OK with adding a few more minutes to their work commute.

"That would create available housing at a more reasonable cost for employees to come and live there," Lawrence said.

The task force will also send out surveys to local businesses to get a better idea of the employee housing needs.