No Federal Funding for HV for Now

Posted by MJ

Image - Empty Property on Genessee St.

LUSJ reported that Housing Visions was not approved for funding in the latest round of funding.

Housing Visions Inc. has shelved its plans for Lockport Canal Homes at Genesee and Locust streets, after learning it won’t obtain a federal grant to undertake the $9 million low-income-housing rehabilitation project.

Officials of the Syracuse-based not-for-profit agency found out Thursday that Housing Visions will not receive a requested share of Neighborhood Stabilization Program economic stimulus funding awarded in New York state by the federal government.

Housing Visions sought $2 million in NSP funds, the amount it’s coming up short in a bid to acquire and rehabilitate 15 parcels in the Genesee-Locust area....
 As for now funding won't be sought again next year. The hope is that the markets will turn around in 2011.

"Since the stock market crashed in the fall of 2008, however, the value of the tax credits is seriously diminished.

...We’ve gotten up to 94 cents on the dollar (when selling the credits). The latest quote we received was 66 cents. That’s a huge difference,” LaFlair said. “We spent all of Thursday crunching the (Lockport) numbers, looking at how we could scale back the project ... . It still wouldn’t work.”

LaFlair started contacting local property owners Friday to tell them Housing Visions is backing out of their deals. Private property owners already received down payments, which they’ll keep. The agency deciding it won’t apply for 2010 housing tax credits is a contractual deal-breaker.

Hopefully Housing Visions can line up other funding, and/or the credit market will rebound, in time for the agency to get in line for 2011 housing tax credits, LaFlair said. The agency will stay in touch with the city and residents in the meantime, he added. It has already invested $125,000 in planning a rescue project and is treating the lack of financing as a temporary setback only."....
Projects in NYS received $36 million in funds.

Of the federal stimulus funding announced Thursday, grants are going to specific housing recovery projects in every state. Housing Visions filed a joint, $20 million application with several other upstate-based not-for-profit agencies. New York applicants landed a combined $36 million in grants; the lion’s share is going to New York City and Habitat For Humanity International.
As mentioned in the last post on the topic, these are main avenues for low income housing projects in our country at this time. Complain about the system as you will but $36 million was spent with $0 dollars coming to Lockport. Tax dollars in this system are flowing this year.  Just none of the $2 million requested for Lockport will appear. Hopefully they can find some success in 2011.

In the mean time there are many other avenues that the city can explore. They won't be as  immediately noticeable as this project would have been but that does not mean that they should not be pursued.

UPDATE 01-16-2010:
The Buffalo News has their report with some more information.


Concerned said...

OK, now that we don't have this project being rammed done our throats without any real debate, this is my brainstorming idea. It might not be practical, but perhaps it is.
1. Designate Genessee St as some sort of special district.
2. Re-direct our community development grant money and give it to people willing to convert these once beautiful old houses to single or two family houses, with parking for two cars per unit. As much as possible make this grant, not loans so the homeowners have incentives.
3. Do a payment-in-lieu of taxes agreement with these people that gives them a major tax break for 'x' (10?) years.
4. As part of this make sure some sort of agreement is made that the houses cannot be re-converted to more than a 1 or 2 family.
5. Offer assistance in vetting tenants for the landlords through the community dev office, police dept and/or LHA.
6. Strictly enforce existing building and zoning codes in the area for any homeowners not willing to take part in tis program. But, make sure the building inspection department treats the rebuilding owners as 'customers', help them out in an extremely friendly manner, while making sure they build to code. Our inspection dept currently does not have this reputation.

With the death of this HV project but the 'promise' it will be back next year the owners of the building that were going to sell are going to be especially bad landlords this year as they will have no incentive to do anything while they wait to sell out next year.

Jack - Though I disagreed with spending such large amounts of tax dollars on this I truly am sorry that the hard work you have put in to this has gone awry, I am impressed with the work you did.

Ok Mayor, there's my alternative - can you consider it and come up with the budget changes needed for it? This project could have the possibility of changing the neighborhood, as opposed to HV's plan to continue the status quo of packed in low income housing.

MJ, with the exception of making sure there is parking so working families could move in, this would keep the urban flair of the neighborhood. Since I am suggesting cutting the housing density way down I think parking could be provided in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Take a look at the Rosenberg's end of Genessee St, let's continue their work!

MJ said...

I think we can all agree that the above "plan" is also needed. I've mentioned the same. I also thought the better use of money to "show support" for the project would have been using city controlled development grant money for nearby houses to seed further growth. Similar tax breaks/assessment issues have also been discussed around here. They all have positive aspects.

I don't feel any of the above though should have precluded the HV project.

Rocketboy said...

Concerned... I would agree with all you stated above, but with one other stipulation. That they be owner-occupied houses.

And no, Mr. Tucker, I will NOT be lighting a cigar about this project. I would ONLY be lighting a cigar(of course, this is some alternate world where I smoke cigars to celebrate things) if the neighborhood was converted into something that Lockport could be proud of. You see, I don't celebrate failure, only success. I just have a different view on what success is, I suppose.

Concerned said...

MJ - Unless you lower the density of low income housing there no one would want to rebuild any houses with private money as they couldn't afford to put money into a house when their neighbor has a $1,000,000 house with $3-500 a month rent. Thats why I do think the HV project would have precluded others.

Rocketboy - The idea of owner occupied would be great, but I think a reach. Maybe though a sweeter deal could be made for the owner occupied ones vs. the others.

As far as the mayor, what would he rather have 33 - $270,000 low income apartments on Genessee St or his flight of 5 fantasy for the $9,000,000 govt welfare check?

Jack Smith said...

I liked some of the ideas posted above, two things caught my eye.

1) Creating a special district, perhaps as a test of sorts to try an incentive program. That is something I can wrap my brain around!

2) If City grant money is to be used, I think it has to be owner occupied, I'm sure everyone would prefer that anyways.

Thank you all for your participation, things are bound to get heated from time to time, it's called passion, and there's nothing wrong that! If anyone would like to brainstorm in a group effort let me know. aldermanjacksmith@yahoo.com

MJ said...

I don't feel that owner occupied is that far fetched. you just need to make the offer to good to refuse. It could be as simple as freezing the assesment for as long as you live there. As has been mentioned before nothing is lost that way. You are also investing in a bigger future.

Those who let there houses go still pay on a higher value, those that invest are rewarded by a stable assesssment. Once the house is sold the house is reassessed and the city cashes in along with the owner who would actually see a return on investment. If people refuse to move or sell down the road because the assessment is too good to lose, I can;t find too many problems with the stability of long term residents.

The only issue is residentcy enforcement, but I feel it would be well worth the time.

If that is too radical, how about 7-10 yr freezes with a max increase of 5-10k per assessment?

That would lower the density of low income through time while the remaining low-income would be well run and fit in well (HV).

Rocketboy said...

Heck MJ, I would be for keeping taxable value on improvements down regardless of where, for owner occupied buildings (but I know that you know that's not a new idea for me :) ). But realistically, doing this to older homes or older neighborhoods only (as older neighborhoods usually equal higher crime and more run-down) would still be a rather large benefit for the city. I've never been a fan of penalizing someone for improving their home.

Rocketboy said...

In a related idea, I would also be for allowing homeowners to purchase empty lots adjacent to their current owner occupied lot w/o a tax penalty, in the denser/urbanized neighborhoods. Having a large(er) lot in the denser areas is a huge benefit in a dense area.

Concerned said...

The reason I thought forcing the owner occupied only version wouldn't work is that these houses will require a large investment to improve and convert to 1 or 2 family, let alone buy them too, and if we could possibly get comm dev funds to do it there might not be enough money in the pot (if there is any, I don't know).
I think if a non-owner occupied owner wants to go to the trouble of converting his house to less units and updating the entire house realistically it would help the city out to assist him.
But again, maybe we look at a good tax break for him, but a better tax break for the owner occupied house in order to encourage that.

Jack Smith said...

I like the idea of frozen assessments, possibly based on purchase price which is a more accurate picture of worth, for conversions from multiple to single or double with owner occupancy. I still believe that owner unoccupied housing should be viewed as a business venture, not to say that there shoudn't be some sort of incentive to maintain those. I do however believe that enforcement of building codes should be strictly enforced without prejudice or preferential treatment.

MJ said...

I agree. I don't think it needs to be single family to have residency. Many people still use a 2nd unit to help fund their first home or help out relatives. And instead of handing out money only to take it back in taxes, just lessen the tax burden for those risking the investment in targeted areas.

Rocketboy said...

Well, I do believe that there are two things that would actually change the character of a neighborhood that's become run down. The first is to encourage owner occupied buildings. Again, it's not to say that there are no good tenants, or that there are no good landlords, but you are never as vested in a building as you are when you own and live in it. On a larger scale, increasing focus on quality of life issues is a vital part of the situation. It's hard to care about your neighborhood when someone insists on leaving garbage cans by the roadside all week long, with uncut grass, while standing in their driveway blasting music from their car. Add to that, broken-down roads, street signs that do not follow code (how many are there in Lockport that no longer are reflective, not straight, or are mounted directly on telephone poles?). We can only gain by paying as much attention to the neighborhoods as we did downtown (which, as a life-long Lockport resident, still amazes me that something got done!).

MJ said...

Tt all comes down to the residents. There are great renters and homeowners and there are also the opposite of both. I've tidied up property etc as a renter as many others here pry have too.

Several residents need to start taking the unpopular stance of blowing in others. The city needs to respond to them. The intertia developed will create more people willing to stand up than those prone to slack off.

The past couple years I have noticed a rather large increase in permits and house work on the blocks I regularly walk. I believe positive change has started but we do have along way to go.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, they want to take a viable business location off the tax rolls and replace it with 2 freakin 4 family houses! Probably will only have room for 2 parking spots - but we know the city will say GREAT!!!

Rocketboy said...

Worse, they will be destroying a community garden.

And again, while financed by our tax money.

Anonymous said...

You know I have a 3 family near there with parking for 4 cars. I'm thinking I could eliminate the parking and probably squeeze a 6 family on my lot. But I promise I will be tough on my renters. Since none of them will have cars, they also probably won't have jobs - I could probably get them to all just sit on the porch all day and not bother anybody.
This will be great if the city just eliminates their zoning/building laws for everybody, not just HV!!!!

MJ said...

The unit you mention is already under what would be required by zoning (3 units 4 spaces). Why not convert it into a two-unit with the "proper" 2 spaces for each unit? Or if going 6 units it would also have to expense for the fire surpression systems etc now required by code just as HV will be. Or are there already sprinkler systems and fire barrier walls, etc installed?

As for the "viable business" location it has been emply for a while. With all that asphalt it looks like it would make a nice used car lot. DT is filled with "viable business" locations. Locust is already set up as a commercial spur going south for three blocks or so. At this time I see no reason to do such with Pine St although I am usually for mixed use with storefronts at street level. I feel the investment of residential new-builds that match the victorian character of the neighborhood should be welcome. This also points to the lack of a coded master plan for the city.

Other changes would need to made at the state level to help spur non-income limited housing reinvestment in inner urban areas. Unfortunately a majority of incentives to build are limitied to low income which hinders building a base of "private" money that would strengthen the area overall in the long run.

And as far as I know, anyone else is allowed to propose a neighborhood redo with high quality designs, materials, management etc and seek out the grants and other items necessary to get it done. Genessee would only benefit from multiple "HVs" building and rehabing.

Anonymous said...

C'mon MJ, you are being blind on this one.
I was being sarcastic converting my 3 unit into 6 units, for one thing the city wouldn't allow me to get rid of all my parking, as it looks like they might do for HV.
And do you really believe that location is big enough to support two 4 family units??? And if they do, will they offer any parking???
No matter how much you and HV want this to be a big city where everybody walks everywhere, it isn't, it won't ever be, and it's ridiculous to continue a trend of high density housing with no parking. I don't care what HV does, they will eventually see that they will either have to rent to scum or have all their apartments sit empty, as good tenants will not move in to apts without parking.
Mr. Smith - has anybody talked to the law dept on this one - if you allow HV to ignore building codes on apartments (specifically parking) can you enforce the law if Joe Blow wants to convert his house to 4 units but doesn't have enough parking?

MJ said...

I caught the sarcasm but still pointed out why it didn't really support your point.

HV zoning variances were for 1 space per unit. Never was there a mention of "no parking". I'm not sure where you get that one from. If nothing else it would give HV similar parking density that you yourself are now privy to offering. They are not ignoring code. They are actually meeting very stringent code to build/rehab these properties. More stingent than any other property in the vicinity on both interior fire codes (fire supresion systems, fire barrier walls) and exterior (proper design languange, materials, historic criteria etc). I find all that worth the parking variance to offer 1 spot per unit.

Look at HVs other developments in other cities that were/are worse than Genessee St. They know what they are getting into and know how to handle it. They performed the market research. I'd love them to be on my steet in place of some of the current multi-tenant properties that are curently on it.

Jow Blow most likely wouldn't convert to 4 units since it is costly to meet the current codes. It's not as easy as putting up a couple walls anymore. He would also have to apply for the zoning variances to provide a reduced number of parking spaces. If he did not it would be easy enough to enforce.

Since when is a big city required for people to walk somewhere? Villages etc worked on the same principles. Why live in an urban area if you want an autocentric lifestyle? If people want to live near site plans like Rite Aid, Scrito's Trophy etc they are readily avaialable outside the city. The city can be designed to offer both parking while still making it attractive to pedestrians.

See the post here: http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/2010/06/bountiful-parking.html

Anonymous said...

-The 'no parking' is an exaggeration for the city not requiring them to put enough (in my opinion) parking.
-I do not know the dimensions of the Scirto lot, but it seems to me like it would not be big enough for two 4 family houses with even 4 parking spots per house.
-I guess I don't think of Lockport as 'urban' since it does not have the amenities of a city where you don't need a car, i.e BUSES and JOBS! It just has a welfare office for all the non-drivers to get to!
-HV will not be meeting any extra stringent building codes that everyone else doesn't have to meet. If you build a new apartment you have to meet the codes.
-Once again, is HV looking at spending $1,000,000 per house like they were going to do in their original plans?
I'm sorry, but when something seems like too good of a deal it usually isn't, and having someone come in and add more housing units to a slum area and tell us they are going to spend an unrealistic amount per unit (I still say they couldn't spend as much money as they said they were going to spend on those houses. I have remodeled apts even with sprinklers, etc you CAN"T spend that much money per unit and ever get your money back. Something doesn't make sense.
-If Joe Blow wouldn't convert a unit to a 4 family because of cost why should HV do it? Is it because they expect us as taxpayers (including city, state and fed taxes) to pay for this?
I guess I am one who thinks gov't should be run like a business, if it doesn't make economic sense don't spend my money on it.

Jack Smith said...

Anon- I'm still waiting for your plan.

Anonymous said...

My plan would be;
1. First and foremost get with the experts on improving the area, the Rosenbergs and get their ideas.
My ideas would be
1. Lower the density of housing by either demolishing houses, offering tax breaks to get rid of multi-units or a combination.
2. ENFORCE existing codes, DO NOT propagate the current problem by increasing the density, especially without proper parking. The problem in the area is the desnity of low income, non-working people. As I have said many times, from experience as a landlord, working people do not move into apartments without parking. I don't care how good a landlord HV will be, they will have a choice of empty apartments or scum.
3. If you bend the rules for them, you better bend them for everybody.
4. Follow the money! There is no way HV could spend $1,000,000 a houses there, someone needs to find out where all that money was going to go.
5. As a political leader, do a sanity check. Think of tax dollars as if they are coming out of your own pocket. Would you invest $9M in 9 houses on that street? If not, why should tax payers?

and I liked these ideas -
1. Designate Genessee St as some sort of special district.
2. Re-direct our community development grant money and give it to people willing to convert these once beautiful old houses to single or two family houses, with parking for two cars per unit. As much as possible make this grant, not loans so the homeowners have incentives.
3. Do a payment-in-lieu of taxes agreement with these people that gives them a major tax break for 'x' (10?) years.
4. As part of this make sure some sort of agreement is made that the houses cannot be re-converted to more than a 1 or 2 family.
5. Offer assistance in vetting tenants for the landlords through the community dev office, police dept and/or LHA.
6. Strictly enforce existing building and zoning codes in the area for any homeowners not willing to take part in tis program. But, make sure the building inspection department treats the rebuilding owners as 'customers', help them out in an extremely friendly manner, while making sure they build to code. Our inspection dept currently does not have this reputation.

LC said...

Just curious Anonymous... Why don't you tell us exactly where your 3-unit is? I'm pretty familiar with most of the rental properties in that area including knowing who the landlords are. I guess knowing that would probably tell us what your motives are in being so negative about anything that could make a change for the positive.

Anonymous said...

Your opinion is I am against something positive, my opinion is adding more apartments without adequate parking in a saturated area is the negative idea. How do you think that area became a slum? I think it is because of all the apartments that were put in before building codes forced parking consideration. Now we are going backwards again!

MJ said...

Most of those are good points and have been discussed. Some misc thoughts:

1) Density is not the problem. The density of a certain type of tenant may be the issue but not the density overall. If anything the density is the unique feature an urban area like Lockport can offer and must to grow long term.

As I asked above, please show me a municipality that demolished its way to success? From my understanding the city tried it in the past when it demolished the structures in Lower Town near Market St, etc. It only displaced the problem to Genessee St. And almost without a doubt, demolishing Genessee St wil only push the problem to a new spot in the city leaving us with more empty land and a new depressed section of the city to worry about. We are lucky to have the housing stock intact right next to DT. We should seize the opprtunity it presents. Urban renewal scars DT also show the effects of demolishing structures and how long it takes to recover from it.

2) As for no buses or jobs: once again it comes to density. You need density for buses to work. As for jobs: it is almost useless on trying to compete for companies who want large plots of cheap open land. It is in high supply in the suburbs and country.

What we can do is offer a unique environment that makes it desireable to certain types of employees/employers who like good housing close to work, stores etc within walking distance for breakfast, lunch, dinner, shopping, etc.

3) It's often difficult to envision buildings on property in an urban area. Look at the community garden and try to envision a house once being there. HeEre we are talking about the entire length of a short block when refering to the Scrito's Trophy property. Redevoloping it would be huge for the streetscape in the realtive area.

4) Most developments are subsidized in one form or another. It results from a lack of regional planning and competeing against eash other for scraps. We have not set up a system where reinvestment in an old area is rewarded and developments on new land/infrastructure are penalized (or at last pay a fairer share)

MJ said...

5) HV's developments should not be in isolation. They should be a stong foundation. My vision would be for HV to create new high quality multi-tenant buildings. Then create incentives for private owners to scale back other properties to a maximum of 2 units or back to single family use. Some brand new housing with high-integrity
architecture will do more to spur reinvestment in properties than empty lots. I've also read that vacant plots in developed areas also sends up "red flags" to mortgage companies etc. We want money coming into the neighborhood and a growing tax base, not the reverse.

6) Again, refer to HVs success in other upstate cities. It was formed as a grass roots effort to attack blight in a depressed area of Syracuse. they have the track record of success. This is not some "Joe Blow" making promises with no track record to back it up.

7) As for the cost per house and an overall breakdown of the use of funds in general, I am also curious and waiting to here more on it.

8) Emlwood Ave in Buffalo pry has the least parking per housing unit and business plot in the city but yet is it the most successful area of the city. This springs from a unique dense housing stock (a lot of which was also turned into apartments in the 70's) and the areas design codes for a pedestrian oriented environment. Demand is so high that reinvestment is crossing over Richmond Ave into the "real" west side: something that people said would never happen (take the Buffalo Garden Walk sometime). What you have see is the desireability of an urban enviroment. People are willing to pay for it and deal with any parking headaches. These types of environments are in short supply all over because most zoming codes have made it illegal to ever create again (something that must be fixed in our urban areas). Now look at areas of the city where they demolished over 50% of retail/business properties for parking. They were used up and then ultimately abandoned as development went out to cheap open land. I'll return us to the point that we can not, and should not try to compete in that manner. It's a proven losing proposition.

MJ said...

Sorry for all the typos. ;)

Anonymous said...

MJ - per the paper today it looks like one of the things that you really like (historic looking houses) won't be part of this. I'm assuming they will be just your plain slum lord type apt houses.

MJ said...

Thanks. I'm planning a post on it over lunch. Trying to get my hands on the renderings. If I can't today I'll try to get a copy/picture of them at the zoning board meeting later in the month.

The community center shown last winter was a nice looking structure.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the Elmwood Avenue argument. Although Elmwood lacks parking at individual units, tenants are able to park on the streets at all hours of the night. Perhaps that is something that could be changed in the city of Lockport?

MJ said...

Yes they are allowed street parking in the Elmwood area, but even considering that, it only adds one spot per property.

I do feel that Lockport is at a disadvantage not offering street parking in the denser areas.

MJ said...

It could be permitted and a money maker that could be reinvested in the street.

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