ONEONTA _ The Common Council on Tuesday, in one of its first acts of the year, voted to hold a housing summit early next month.

Mayor Dick Miller said the summit is coming at the right time for the city, as many groups and organizations were working on their own on different issues related to housing.

"All of a sudden the arrows seemed to be aligned," Miller said.

Council members voted unanimously to set the date of the housing summit as Saturday, Feb. 4. A time has not yet been set, but Miller said it will be held at Center Street Elementary School.

Vacant properties, the needs of first-time home buyers, recruitment of families to the Center City area, the homeless, those living in deficient conditions and increased housing in the upper floors in downtown Oneonta, were named by the council as areas of focus.

The summit is intended to be broad in scale, according to the mayor.

"We have a lot of people doing a piece of it but we have nobody doing all of it. We don't have anything comprehensive in housing," Miller said before the 7-0 vote was taken.

Second Ward Council Member Larry Malone was absent.

Ruth Allen, a retired Cornell Cooperative Extension staffer will be assisting as a community volunteer, according to the mayor.

Allen will serve as co-chairwoman of the summit and work alongside Third Ward Council Member David Rissberger, who will also be overseeing the council's Community Improvement Committee this year. Rissberger is one of five new council members.

Fourth Ward Council Member Mike Lynch, who has championed housing-related issues in the Center City area for the last four years, said he was confident the city could see results on several fronts, and good work in some areas is already being done.

"I think there are lots of different piece to this," Lynch said. "There's lots of ways to make progress on this."

Miller said he hopes the two colleges, churches, banks, businesses, Opportunities for Otsego and other nonprofits participate in the summit.

"There's something in this for everyone," Miller said.

Reducing the number of vacant city properties, developing strategies to increase occupancy of second- and third-floor housing space in the downtown area, meeting the needs of the homeless, encouraging more single-family, owner occupied homes in the Center City area and looking at ways to improve substandard housing, especially for seniors, are some of the goals of the summer, Miller said.

Miller pointed to some of the successful efforts done by local churches and groups in the fight against hunger in the community as an inspiration for the detailed look at housing issues.

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