1/06/2010

Planning Board OK's HV

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported.

...The city is negotiating a 20-year tax break for the makeover of the Genesee Street neighborhood by Housing Visions, a Syracuse-based not-for-profit, it was revealed Monday.
Meanwhile, despite some misgivings regarding parking and design, the city Planning Board approved a community center for the project.
Housing Visions has purchase agreements for a collection of rundown properties on Genesee and Locust streets. It seeks state approval to sell income tax credits to a private investor to obtain money to finance the $8.5 million in purchases, demolition, renovation and new construction...
Ben Lockwood, Housing Visions’ director of development, said the tax break would bring the city about as much in taxes as the undervalued buildings produce now. Mayor Michael W. Tucker said it might be a little more, although neither man could come up with the exact figures. 
I have no problem with these tax breaks as long as the city offered anyone else looking to invest in the street the same benefits. Buy a house, commit to invest a certain amount, and your assessment will be frozen for 10 years or so. This Housing Visions project is a nice start but a larger plan for the street and surrounding area needs to be in place.

In related news, an information session is scheduled for this Friday (01/08/10) at First Baptist Church, corner of Genesee and Pine, starting at 6pm.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

From Lockport Journal "The state wants an additional show of city support for the project, Tucker said, so Community Development Director William Evert is looking into how to funnel some of the city’s annual federal housing rehab block grant to the project over time."
So they will be getting $8.5 Million in tax dollars to build it, a 20 year tax break plus our commuity development money for 33 APARTMENTS!!!

Rocketboy said...

I wish it was not going down like this, but alas, I will concede that it's better than what's there.

I just want to know, will we be refunded that $8.5 million at any time? They WILL be making a profit on the buildings for the twenty years that they will not be paying their fair share.

In the mean time, I will guarantee that my taxes will go up within the next 20 years, and I didn't buy my house as a source of monthly income.

MJ said...

Remember that they are building and rehabbing structures to historic district standards. These aren't the cheap crap 6-plexes surrounded by parking that go up for apartments these days. I feel they will add a nice foundation. Not only will they blend in style-wise but they will most likely look better than most any other property around them (or in the city for that matter). The ball is in the city's hand to ensure this development spawns private investment though other incentive initiatives and infrastructure improvements. If not our return on our tax based investment will be slow and small. It can be a lot more with the proper planning and execution.

Anonymous said...

"Remember that they are building and rehabbing structures to historic district standards. These aren't the cheap crap 6-plexes surrounded by parking that go up for apartments these days."
I have agreed with a lot of what you said, but I don't care how historic they build these houses - there is no way they can invest OVER $1 Million in each of these houses unless they are going to hire union carpenters to come in and hand craft every board and nail in them and then load them up with granite countertops, jacuzzi's and top of the line appliances.

I hope someone monitors where the $9,000,000 is all spent, because I don't see how they can physically spend it all on these houses.

Rocketboy said...

Take a look at their site...

http://www.housingvisions.org/

As a non-profit, their financial filing (I believe) are public. But take a look around, it does not look like they cut any corners. That in itself, is a good thing.

Again, I just believe that if it was worth doing, I wouldn't need to chip in.

Rocketboy said...

But this is a bit of new information (to me) that I don't like one single bit...

"LNRI board members include 2nd Ward Alderman-elect Jack Smith of Waterman Street and 4th Ward Alderman-elect Andrew Chapman of Pine Street."

So someone who makes the rules, and someone who makes the exceptions of the rules is a board member of a "local affiliate".

The phrase "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion" suddenly comes to mind.

I now have to say I am 100% against any public money going to this group, and any variances that they received should be granted to anyone else, unless they can be reversed.

Jack Smith said...

Rocketboy- I have been working with HV for almost 2 years, should the fact that I was recently elected to represent my ward automatically kill this project. If it was okay before, why not now. I had no interaction with or influence over either the Zoning Board or the Planning Board concerning this project, niether did Andy Chapman. So I didn't and I don't make those rules and I certainly didn't and I don't have the authority to make exceptions to them. I can tell you this, neither Andy or myself will be voting on any resolution involving Lockport Canal Homes or Housing Vision or anything we feel which may be connected to the two. That being said, have no doubt that as the President of LNR and Alderman of the Second Ward, I will attempt to influence the Council's decision on any reasonable resolution involving this project. However, I will promise this, if at any point I feel that this project is going to cost the taxpayer more than it is worth, I will withdraw my support. Please, everyone, attend tommorrow nights presentation at First Baptist Church starting at 6pm. I would be happy to speak with any and all of you after the presentation.

Concerned said...

Sorry, but this statement;
"..as the President of LNR and Alderman of the Second Ward, I will attempt to influence the Council's decision..."
sounds like it makes it a definite conflict of interest for you.

I think it should be one job or the other, but you should get the city attorney to make a ruling. Make sure he knows this statement was posted publicly, I think it will make a difference that you stated what you will do. I do commend you for all the work you have done on this - my personal opinion though is it is way too much of a gov't handout for the return.

MJ said...

Isn't any person talking to any of the boards or council trying to influence the decision? At least they are already abstaining from any relevant voting.

I don't see a better person to oversee the project than a person from the local grassroots team that brought it here through a 2 year process of their own accord. Even if one of them is now a council member.

If anyone is concerned with the possibility of a tiny return on profit let's get the city to stipulate that it goes back into tangible projects such as new trees etc.

This is not a single person looking to turn profit. It's a small group overseeing a non-profit endeavor.

And always thanks for the comments, concerns etc.

Rocketboy said...

"I have been working with HV for almost 2 years, should the fact that I was recently elected to represent my ward automatically kill this project."

I will answer this, and the rest of your post with one simple answer.

You should have stepped down as a board member.

Absolutely Astonished said...

It again amazes me to see people so opposed and critical to anything that may change an area that has been so notorious across the county as one of the worst drug and crime ridden sections in Lockport. This project is an innovative way to help combat the crime and blight and even assist in allowing the Pine and Locust Street entreeways into downtown more safe and aesthetically appealing. Not to mention the fact that it just may give the area landlords confidence that they too do not have to "settle" for less than desireable tenants which they insist comes with the territory!

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe all the negative comments in regards to low-moderate income tenants! I think many of you would be quite amazed to find out just how many of us are out there that are still productive, law abiding citizens!

Conerned said...

""Absolutely Astonished said...

It again amazes me to see people so opposed and critical to anything that may change an area that has been so notorious across the county as one of the worst drug and crime ridden sections in Lockport. This project is an innovative way to help combat the crime and blight and even assist in allowing the Pine and Locust Street entreeways into downtown more safe and aesthetically appealing. Not to mention the fact that it just may give the area landlords confidence that they too do not have to "settle" for less than desireable tenants which they insist comes with the territory!
1/08/2010 9:46 AM
Anonymous said...

I cannot believe all the negative comments in regards to low-moderate income tenants! I think many of you would be quite amazed to find out just how many of us are out there that are still productive, law abiding citizens!
""
It's that some of us have enough common sense to say $9,000,000 pus 20 years of tax breaks plus giving them a chunk of our community dev money is too much to fix up 7 houses!!!
Don't you think with that much money the whole area could be cleaned up?
And if something is too good to be true, isn't it usually not true? How can they physically spend that much money on that many houses?
As far as other landlords, if the city sets this precedent then do they have to set aside all their minimum parking laws and give everyone 20 year tax breaks to remodel?

As far as law abiding low income people, even if they fix those houses do you think that anyone with any sense will still move in that neighborhood? They are only fixing freaking 33 apartments for the $9,000,000!! What about all the others on the street? And don't tell me other landlords are then going to fix their houses, not unless they get over $1,000,000 per house to do it!
This is not about low income people, it's about our tax money!
And Jack, it's too bad you have to have a for profit corp to run this, but since you do I just don't see how the city attorney can allow you to participate. I understand your heart is in the right spot - but you can't do both jobs.

Anonymous said...

Concerned says: "And Jack, it's too bad you have to have a for profit corp to run this, but since you do I just don't see how the city attorney can allow you to participate. I understand your heart is in the right spot - but you can't do both jobs."

BTW- Lockport Neighborhood Revitaliztion,Inc. is a NOT-FOR-Profit Group.

concerned said...

Am I wrong or does Lockport Canal Homes, LLC have to be a for-profit corp in order to get all these grants and run the houses? I do understand they are not looking to make money, but have to have that status.
Of course, when you have apartments that rent for $3-500 per month in million dllar buildings it will be tough to have a profit!

Anonymous said...

Lockport Canal Homes, LLC was a name most recently given to the project by Housing Visions.(they name each individually) You can ask them in person why the limited liability corp. Jack Smith has no involvement with that company.

MJ said...

How do people think the loft conversions etc all work in Buffalo, etc? Selling the same type of credits. They are also initially all rented below market value as a stipulation of receiving the credits. The Packard Conversion is one of the latest: http://www.regandevelopment.com/packard.html Other wise the numbers do not add up and nothing happens as buildings lanquish, get to the point where they need demo (with our tax dollars) and then the urban prarie takes over. Better to invest our money in building up an area into something reather than tearing it down into nothing.

It's not cheap to meet current fire/safetey regs for 3+ unit buildings and to build to historic guidlines. If you want to see something happen here high quality builds are needed. Throwing up some cheap duplexes would do nothing to help the neighborhood.

And they are not recieving a $9mil grant like some people are making it out to seem.

The next press should be getting the city to plan, impliment and market a system that seeds growth off of this investment.

Concerned said...

OK, they spent $10M for 44 units! And only $2M came in the form of tax credits with $900k from the city. And this is in a building that is actually a historic building, not just a crappy street. How is building "new" "old looking" houses comparable to rehabbing the beautiful building they restored?
So we are going to allow them to use $9M in tax credits for these houses.
Is there any promises for them to use local labor or will they be bringing everything (including labor and supplies) from out of town?
And read these comments, obviously people aren't thrilled with the tax dollars spent there either- http://www.buffalorising.com/2009/06/packard-apartments-ribbon-cutting-today.html
I guess we are in the Obama generation where we just give our tax dollars from the working people to anything that sounds good. Hopefully someone at the state level will look at these numbers and say WTF.
And why bother with more meetings, shouldn't they have been held before the city approved everything?
$9,000,000 bucks for Genessee St or should I say $270,000 per apartment- can you imagine the businesses we could have supported with this and then had people actually work and earn enough to rent apartments?

Rocketboy said...

AA.. "This project is an innovative way to help combat the crime and blight..."

It's innovative to use other people's money to make long-term investments?

"Not to mention the fact that it just may give the area landlords confidence that they too do not have to "settle" for less than desireable tenants which they insist comes with the territory!"

Will any/all future landlords be given tax breaks (at taxpayer expense), free money (at tax payers expense), and variances from parking regulations?

MJ..."The next press should be getting the city to plan, impliment and market a system that seeds growth off of this investment."

What growth do you foresee from creating new/revamped low income housing?
.....

Here's another way of putting my growing anger about this project. A "not for profit" (which doesn't mean that people who work for the company do not make any money, just that at the end of the financial year, they need to have spent their money on salaries or re-invested in the company) gets free money and 20 years of tax breaks to improve property and make money off of it. They also get seemingly whatever variances they want.

I, a private home-owner on the other hand, has to jump through legal hoops to improve my house with my own money. I also have to pay INCREASED taxes for daring to improve my property, which in turn improves my neighborhood.

Any other landlord who has a building or two has to jump through legal hoops to improve their houses. They also have to pay increased taxes for improving their property, which in turn improves the neighborhood where the property exists.

To thoes who say that this cannot be done, take a look at the other projects that Housing Visions has done.

http://www.housingvisions.org/housing_total.html

Of course, this does not give the complete picture of tax breaks, but there are multiple projects on there that were not done with grants.

I also highly doubt that they could not do this without the tax breaks and taxpayer money. Look at the retail assets they own. The amounts listed are just the amounts invested. Not how much money the 525 units they already own generate. Nor how much each property is now worth.

If this was being done without taxpayer money, the only thing that I'd be concerned about is the lack of parking. But even then, it would be their own risk. Unlike as it stands now, I will be paying for this project for 20 years, while people will be using it as a long term investment.

concerned said...

Rocketboy - good post, but don't forget one other issue. How can they possibly spend $9,000,000 on these 7 properties. I don't think it is physically possible. I think Jack did a lot of due diligence on the projects HV has done, but has anybody really looked at the fact it makes absolutely no sense to spend $270,000 per apartment for low income housing. And we are not talking rehabbing historical buildings, we are talking residential housing.

But the point is, it doesn't matter, everything was approved by the city before the public meetings! It's a done deal as far as Lockport approvals. I assume public meetings weren't required.

I can't wait for the first guy to go to the city and say he is building a 4 family house with 4 bedroom apts, 4 parking spots - and by the way - I want a 20 year tax break!

Jack Smith said...

Should have been at the presentation tonight, could have had all your questions answered !

Anonymous said...

All I need to know is;
- it's $9M for 7 houses on Genessee St plus our comm dev money plus 20 years of tax breaks -
- $270,000 per apartment
- 1 parking spot per, including 4 bedroom apts so you won't ever get anybody but low income tenants.
- the city rammed it through without debate
- and somebody is making a lot of money off it (and I do not mean you or anyone in your group Jack - your heart is in the right place, but unfortunately our wallet is going to be open for this)
- it's got to end up being trouble for the city zoning/planning boards in the future, it seems like they have set some precedents now.
- unless you are going to give the other landlords on Genessee each $1m and 20 years of tax breaks to fix their houses they aren't going to.
- HV is a great landlord, but so what?

Anonymous said...

and I should have added, I thought why bother going - it's a done deal as far as Lockport is concerned at least. Hopefully someone at the state/fed level will say this isn't historical preservation or simply ask where the $9M is going.
Hopefully since they don't use union labor our local trade unions will at least fight for some work so at least someone can benefit locally from this waste of our tax dollars.

Rocketboy said...

Jack.. is there something preventing you from answering things here? Many of us have other things to do then go to endless meetings. Listening to people talk about things that were already per-ordained is not a useful use of my time. Also, not only is this a larger audience, the questions you could be answering exist in an archived state, not a temporal meeting.

And Anon.. Housing Visions does have have open bid process. But unless you feel like driving to their HQ, it will cost you $300+ to print out the job requirements on your own printer on your own pc.

Anonymous said...

I guess there must be. He must not want to talk after we started asking questions about $9,000,000 and all the tax breaks plus the obvious conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

I just think he's sick of trying to respond to the handful of negative comments and realizes he has better use of his free time. I'm sure you can contact him personally if you'd like more info or specifics but chances are you won't.

concerned said...

Just by stating on opinion that a project is wrong doesn't make it a negative comment. Both the mayor and others involved with this have asked for better ideas if we don't like this one.
My entire point is if $9,000,000 of our tax dollars are available for this neighborhood, we could do much better than just fixing up 7 houses. That whole area could be refurbished (with authentic housing) for that much money.
And I do not understand how they can even get historic credits for those houses. The can't be counted as historic, can they?

Rocketboy said...

Why would I contact him personally when I can make it an open discussion here?

Concerned said...

because I guess he has learned as a politician you shouldn't answer questions, secrecy is best!
He's fitting right in already.

Rocketboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Smith said...

Concerned and Anon- The above comments are, in my opinion, bordering on baiting. I happen to have a full time job, 4 kids, a lovely wife, run a not-for-profit, working on other community projects, and am an alderman. This does not always leave time or sometimes energy to respond the myriad of miss information you like to propigate. It also seems to me that while there may be people following this post, they have chosen not to directly participate, and so it seems I have only two or three active dissenters to convince. These are the same two or three who often see the downside to anything proposed or happening in the City. I will continue to contibute to this forum, with MJ's permission, when I am able and when I think it would be worthwhile to do so.

I will, however, leave you with a little valuable insight-
a) The money comes from the sale of FEDERAL tax credits (not the City of Lockport)
b) The project is 33 units and a community center located in 10 buildings (not 7)
c) It is called a pilot agreement, (not a bunch of tax breaks), and it pays property taxes pretty close to what is being paid now and it increases every year-guaranteed!
d) HV is a great landlord, the staff to run and maintain these units will be hired locally, someone who has a vested interest in the community, if Genesee St. had had more responsible landlords, this project would never have had to be considered.
e) Local contractors will be used for this project!

If you need further informaion from me on this project, you will not get it here, e-mail me at aldermanjacksmith@yahoo.com, I will respond to anyone who includes verifiable contact information.

Concerned said...

Jack,
I'm sorry but FEDERAL tax money is still my tax money and $9,000,000 for 10 buidings is still ridiculous.
And if they are putting a millon dollars in a house it should be taxed at it's value.
No one is argueing they aren't a good landlord, but with the lack of parking they will not be able to get good tenants.
I'm glad you are guaranteeing local contractors will work on it, I hope they are paid prevailing wages since it is federal money.
You forgot to mention how much of our community development money do they want?
And what difference does it make no one showed up, this project was rammed through the approvals with one night of comment just before the votes. No one was going to change the Obama - er i mean Tucker/Smith administrations mind that this project was going in. And I mean that in a way that here goes more of our tax money from hard working people to non-working. $270,000 apartments for $3-500 a month rent!!!

And don't you think for $9,000,000 that whole street could be updated?

Rocketboy said...

Jack... "These are the same two or three who often see the downside to anything proposed or happening in the City"

I sincerely hope that you are not lumping me in on this. As someone who's lived in Lockport all my life, I'm glad to see the direction that DT has gone in recent years, and I'm also very eager to see the Flight of Five project completed, which is a rather unpopular project.

A> As pointed above, it's still my money. The fact that it's federal money makes it worse, as I do not believe that someone from another side of the country should have to help foot the bill for a local company's investments.

C> Pretty close is not the same as what everyone else has to pay. I would love to see what happened if I was 'pretty close' to paying my taxes. And again, give me the same deal, and I would be more than happy to improve my house / lot. It's a no-brainer.

D> Good for them, but that does not change the fact that they are not using their money to make a profit. As I've said before, we should be encouraging converting multiple residence apartments to single owner occupied buildings. That would help change the character of Lockport neighborhoods right then and there.

Also, encouraging / enforcing responsible landlords isn't equal to giving a private company tax breaks that adjacent properties will not receive, or free money from the rest of the country. You've just made a uneven playing field, and then called out the people who were not given such advantages.

"If you need further information from me on this project, you will not get it here, e-mail me at aldermanjacksmith@yahoo.com, I will respond to anyone who includes verifiable contact information."

As someone who has been using computers for communication back in the old floppy drive area, any call for 'verifiable information' always comes across as intimidation. To me, the only reason that I would need to verify to you who I am, is because you 'need' to know for some specific reason. I have no control over what you do with that information after it's been given to you, nor do I have any control over what you yourself do what that information. For proof of my residency, see: http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/search/label/North%20End .

It's hard to liveblog what's going on over your house when you do not live there.

Nor do I think that you would need MJ's permission to comment, heck, he gave me access to post.. :)

Also, to me, tax brakes are just an admission that the taxes are too high. Cut tax breaks, and everyone else isn't stuck footing the bill, so taxes would be lower to begin with.

Rocketboy aka Erik

MJ said...

1) Tax credits on the state and federal level are the current system of historic preservation and low-income housing. I guess we could say no thank you to spending some other localitites money but that does not mean that they will continue to keep spending ours. If you don't agree with the current system: push for a change on the whole system but be wise enough to use it for our betterment while everyone else is.

2) As I mentioned before, anyone on Genessee should also get the same pilot upon a heavy investment/conversion. It would help what this will start to grow into something more. I'd call the current supressed values on Genesee St a nice tax break in itself. Do we seriously expect someone to instantly pay face vaule on a new build while the neighbor next door continues to be taxed on the triple that they picked up at auction for 10k?

3) Gentrification does not happen overnight. It takes time and a base to start from. Geneseee needs other initiatives besides just this one.

4) I'd like to thank Jack for taking a chance here. Most politicians wouldn't have the guts (or rose colored glasses? ;) to even give it a go. A politician gives their home address, phone number, name etc. It's not unfair to ask for at least a name as a common courteousy. At a city meeting a name is required, etc. It requires you you to stand behind your comments etc. Just read thtough the Buffalo News comments to see the type of conversation annon. status gives. We are sane here so far. Lets hope it stays that way. Annons here have nothing to lose by throwing stuff out. Jack has a lot more risk on the table when commenting on a blog outside a more formal interchange.

Jack Smith said...

Rocketboy-I will agree not to lump you together with others if you will agree not to lump me in with the other "politicians". I think everyone here would agree that taxes are too high! Anyone who wishes to contact me personally can rest assured that their information will remain confidential, I certainly did not mean to sound intimidating, my apologies. Lastly, I'm sorry but I did understand your statement about the liveblogging, could you perhaps clarify?

MJ-Thank you for your kind words, I have been advised several times not to participate in these types of forums but will continue to do so as long as everyone will keep it civil and understands that I am not infallible. I'm an ordinary 'Joe' who has a lot to still learn and am willing to listen to others in order to do so. I welcome dissenting opinions when properly presented.

Concerned said...

Jack - I believe every chance I get I have complimented you on your attempts for Genessee St and noted that your heart is in the right place. I just truly feel that the idea is just flawed due to the high tax dollar cost for what you are getting. People should be able to see that for $9M you should get more than 10 houses fixed up. And I agree with the comment for this much money they should have been restored to one (or two) families if you truly want the neighborhood changed. This just doesn't make sense to increase the amount of low income housing there for that much money. Heck if people really think that just having a great landlord like HV lets spend tax dollars and just manage the properties on the street.
Government needs to use common sense and they should spend money like it is coming from their own pocket. Would you truly spend $9M of your own money on 33 low income apaprtments?

Jack Smith said...

Anon-The sad truth of the matter is that the cost of bureaucracy is too high, private dollars can do so much more. I, however, do not have 9 million dollars nor do I believe that we could find a private investor willing to take a chance in that area right now.

Anyone want to talk about term limits?

MJ said...

Sorry, I've been slacking. ;) I'll start a term limit post.

Concerned said...

Jack - you made my point. Please, as a politician you should always vote to spend the money like it is coming from your own pocket, and the fact that a private investor wouldn't spend that much money there should mean we also shouldn't spend our tax dollars like that!

Rocketboy said...

MJ... True, but the current situation just shows that we realize that the taxes are bad. So if we want someone to be invest, we have to fix the taxes, but just for that one investor, at the cost of everyone else. Fix the root of the problem, and you don't have to make special rules, as the rule will already be fair.

Jack... I'll admit, my comment above may have been harsh, but it was based on your sudden drop in commenting when the questions started getting 'harder'. So we'll just let that be water under the bridge. I also did not mean to imply that you yourself were asking for personal information for any nefarious reasons, I was just pointing out that based on experience (personal or otherwise), it has always been considered impolite to force someone to give a real name/address, unless they choose to.

With regards to my liveblogging incident, take a look at:

http://lockportforum.blogspot.com/search/label/North%20End

as 'proof' of my residency. This had to do with the KFC burglary a few months back.

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