Since 2016, the little Village of South Blooming Grove, located in Orange County, NY, has seen steady homeowner turnover. At least 170 homes, which represent 15% of the village’s housing, have been bought and sold in just over a year. While this housing boom may be exciting news, it’s also a bit curious: nearly all of these new homeowners had moved from Brooklyn, Kiryas Joel, or other areas with large Hasidic and Orthodox communities.
Kiryas Joel was originally established as a community that was close to the heart of New York City, yet far enough away from what founder Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum felt to be harmful, immoral influences found in big cities. Recent statistics show the village has 23,000 residents, most of whom spoke Yiddish at home. It also has the youngest median age population of any U.S. municipality. Most families are large, with many living below the national poverty rate.
But now, many of those families are looking to move from the isolated protection Kiryas Joel provides. Despite the village’s relatively small population, the housing there has become congested. In addition, many families are looking to raise their children in a more suburban, contemporary environment.
And so, they’ve come to South Blooming Grove. At five times the size of Kiryas Joel, and with far less people, South Blooming Grove is especially appealing. The homes cost less and have nice-sized yards. It’s quiet, yet provides more opportunities than secluded Kiryas Joel. Since recent surveys have found 50% of respondents say walkability is a top or high priority in where they choose to live, it’s not surprising that these Hasidic families wanted to be a bit closer to civilization — especially because Hasidic women don’t drive.
But the boom has some residents worried. While neighbors have been welcoming to these Hasidic families, records show that Hasidic investors have bought a number of the South Blooming Grove properties. Because it’s so close to Kiryas Joel and because home prices are so low, these houses are ripe for the picking.
What’s worrisome to some residents is the fact that these sold homes have sat empty since the deals went through. Although 25 people looked at one local home to buy, that house has been vacant for seven months. Records show that 50 houses sold in the last year used no water during the first three months of 2017. This can only mean that no one is living in those homes, and they likely aren’t even been renovated. Since the village enacted a six-month residential building freeze in February, this isn’t exactly surprising. Other homes have stood empty for the last year.
Understandably, some are concerned that their intent to rent out these properties may be bad for the village.
South Blooming Grove resident Matt DeRosa, who currently lives in the home his grandfather constructed in 1967, told Record Online, “Our biggest fear is having a population of people who don’t care about the community.”
The good news is that no one has declared that their newly purchased property is now a religious school or synagogue, which would allow them to take advantage of property tax exemptions. In addition, no increase of water or sewer usage has been reported so far. By 2000, 208 million Americans were served by centralized collection systems, and with larger families moving in, a usage increase could be a cause for concern.
For now, the Hasidic housing boom has settled somewhat. The frenzied transactions have taken on a slower pace, and long-time residents are making an effort to get to know their new neighbors. And those worried about South Blooming Grove’s municipal water supply may be comforted by the fact that Kiryas Joel is in the midst of a $60 million water project. With any luck, that village will share both its residents and its water with their neighbors.