10/07/2010

Housing Visions $ Figures

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that at last night's council meeting the PILOT was approved for the Housing Visions Lockport Canal Homes project.

The Lockport Canal Homes housing development will be property-tax exempt for 20 years, according to an agreement approved by the Common Council on Wednesday.



The not-for-profit developer, Syracuse-based Housing Visions, plans to renovate or rebuild houses on 11 lots along Genesee, Locust and Pine streets, if financing for the $9 million product can be lined up.


The agency sought tax-exempt status for the properties to strengthen its application for a homeless housing assistance grant; other grants and funding sources are being pursued now as well, said Housing Visions’ director of development, Ben Lockwood.


According to the agreement, the agency will make annual payments to the city in lieu of taxes, either 5 percent of gross rents collected or $9,000 per year, whichever is more......
People were pining for the numbers "behind the scenes" and I thankfully have them:

LCH Development Budget

LCH Operating Budget

LCH Tax Analysis

Jack Smith has a tentatvie ward meeting lined up for Saturday Nov 6th at the Public Library from 10am to 12pm. HV has been invited to this meeting and confirmation is being awaited. Chew over the numbers and bring your questions.

UPDATE: 10-08-10
Buffalo News Article

Old posts on current HV plan:
HV Before Zoning Board Tonight
Housing Visions Rd 2

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the numbers. So, $5,000,000 construction cost for 11 houses! How many other $500,000 houses are there in the city? And what would the tax bill be on a $500,000 house?
What a waste of taxpayer dollars! Give me $5M, not even the $9M they are actually getting, and I promise you I buy and renovate the entire street, not just 11 houses!!!

MJ said...

Remember that we are discussing a new build "house" with 3 to 4 kitchens and baths, water fire supression systems, exterior materials to historic preservation standards etc. It would be like buying a new built house for $166k (assuming three units) which is pry lower end nowadays. Usually a small stripped down place in a new subdivision starts at $140-150k if you are lucky.

Although it would be nice to see the Scrito Trophy plot developed I'd have greater interest in seeing more of the existing "rooming houses" restored to their past glory and scaled back to 2-3 units each thus perserving them and making them more marketable after the 15 yrs to possible live in owners looking for income suites. This would also put a shine on the houses that are similar to the ones that you would hope private owners would be inspired to duplicate. Two units might bypass the need for the fire supression systems (I don't remember).

That's in part because I'm not too excited about the site plan for the Scrito plot. It does not "embrace" the small street foot print of the neighborhood around it (like the original plans)and, to me, will stick out as low income housing units no matter how nice the exterior materials are. Without a suitable urban footprint, even the nicest building can look ugly or awkward.

One also should consider that HV is the organization with the history of making the numbers work.

As for the city kicking in the 50k, I'd much rather see city money for the project put into new sidewalks and infrastructure in the neighborhood: giving back to it as a whole and helping reach the end of turning it around.

Anonymous said...

MJ - If you want to look at it that way then explain the business sense of this - a $166,000 30 year mortgage would require payments of $1100 per month - but from the numbers in their document (approximate $200,000 / 30 units / 12 mnths) they are expecting around $550 a month rent - or half the payment needed to pay the real bills.
I'm sorry, it just doesn't make any financial sense and as a taxpayer I don't see why we have to pay for it.
But, being a realist I can see this is a done deal that it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks.... I mean they already snowed you in that the building won't look 'historical', and they are packing people in way too tight.

Rocketboy said...

That's the thing. We shouldn't have to pay for it as city taxpayers. We shouldn't have to pay for it as NYS tax payers. This isn't a plan that will revitalize the neighborhood. This isn't a plan that will create future friendly jobs. This isn't a plan that really adds anything, except apartments.

What the City of Lockport is doing is A-Oking handing over a part of the center of the city to a private corporation that exists because of taking taxpayer money.

I'm not cool with that at all.

Doubly so when their INTENT is to get other people to pay for their buildings, and get other people to pay for the taxes, so they can sell them to someone else.

We are paying for their investment, and they will reap the profits.

So, even if they do a super-fantastic job with managing the buildings, they are going to sell them to some slumlord before they have to start paying taxes.

And Lockport is left with, what? More badly managed low rent apartments?

At least in 20 years, there will be no-one left in office that is now, so they won't have to worry about their jobs then. By that time they all be retired, and can avoid getting blamed for the repercussions.

But unlike the first anon, with the regulations that they will have to meet for multiple dwelling buildings, yes, I can see how they would need that much money for the buildings. And the nice thing about "non-profits", is that any money left over either has to go into assets (property) or pockets (paychecks). Any guesses where the money will be 'forced' to go?

Alderman Jack Smith said...

Rocketboy is probably right about one thing, in twenty years I probably won't be in office. I probably won't be retired either, but odds are I'll probably still live in the same house. Do I believe that this project will turn around the City or even that area? No, not by itself. As I told my fellow Council members last night, the City has to make a commitment to improving the area or don't pass the PILOT. Do I like my money being spent on these types of projects? No, but if it is, I want it to be spent here. Can private investment do more with less? Yes it can, but will it in a City that has been unwilling to seriously address housing and crime? No. This project is going to happen in my neighborhood, I am taking a calculated risk that it will be beneficial to my neighborhood and my city. Can I guarantee it? No. Is this the project I envisioned over three years ago? No, but it is a start in the right direction.

The people who are unwilling to take a chance are the people who get nothing done. Will I make some mistakes in my time as an alderman? I have and probably will again. Do I think this is one of those times? I do not.

So, Rocketboy, I will again ask what specific plan you are bringing to the table? You knew this project was going to be tried again and yet you have offered no concrete alternative solutions.

Anon 1- You complain about the taxpayer money being spent and how little is getting accomplished for that money, then you turn around and ask someone to give you money! So, is it okay to use other people's money or not? If it's not, put up your own money! Get's a little harder doen't it?

Anon 2- Just moved to the city? I didn't see you come up with any brilliant solutions since last time. Did you contact your alderman to let him/her know how you felt? MJ has been gracious enough to provide the contact information on this site.

MJ- I agree with your opinion about the Scirto's lot, however I was happy that they were willing to do more doubles instead of the 4 units as was requested.

Rocketboy said...

Jack, Jack, Jack.... Let me repeat myself for at least the 10th time here.

If this plan was a good idea financially, they'd do it with their own money. The fact that they cannot or will not, means that it's not a good idea. If I wasn't paying for it, then I would have very little right to complain. I generally don't care what private organizations do with with their own money. So I guess, the first thing I suggest is the same thing I suggest in cases like these that don't really add anything (and, if you ask me, bring down the city), is that they need to pay for it themsleves.

As far as my "specific plan" (which by the way, is not really my job to create) there are a few things that I believe need to be done.

- Incentives to convert multiple family dwellings back to single family owner occupied dwellings.
--This is due to my firm believe that the amount of rental property is part of the problem in the city.
- Changing the property tax to put more emphasis on the land, and not the structures.
-- This has been done in other cities, and helped to increase the amount of construction.
--A property owner should not be penalized for improving their lot.
--A property owner should also never gain benefits for failing to upkeep their lot. (Main and Locust, I'm looking at you. Building was allowed to rot, taxes were reduced, meanwhile some prime downtown property is being used as a glorified cell tower.)

I've also said before that I'm for landlord licensing, and making sure that tenants are aware of their rights, and the way to address issues.

Concrete alternatives that I've said before.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the 3rd time I offered alternative suggestions, here they are agin -
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.
7. Get the Rosenberg's heavily involved. They are cleaning up their end of the street without millions of dolars of welfare.

- I really resent that you think it's OK to spend this absurd amount of my tax dollars on such a small number of houses because if you don't someone else will.

- This is not going to help the strret at all. You can't improve such a small number of houses by giving away money, ADD ADDITIONAL LOW INCOME PEOPLE, and then expect the other owners to put their own money up with increased taxes to compete with these sbsidized ones.

- I think anon 1 was being facetious saying "give me the money..", you took it as serious. But I agree, give me $9,000,000 I def would be able to improve every single house on the street, not just 9 of them!!!

- Did you ever check with the attorney if you should have even been voting on this? Your previous quote- "..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.

THIS IS NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK ON YOU, I LIKE HOW ACTIVE AND CARING YOU ARE FOR YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. IN THIS CASE, IMHO THIS IS JUST A GIANT WASTE OF MY TAX DOLLARS.

MJ said...

I'd submit that nothing makes financial sense in Lockport. I'll be lucky if I get any return on the material and labor that I put in and continue to put into my house located between High and Walnut. Hence the position that the city is in and most likely has been increasingly in for the past half decade. But there are people who want this type of urban living environment and are willing to be risk takers, even moreso if offered a reasonable chance at a return.

The vast majority of the funds available for this project are for "low-income" housing. This is not some magical money from the general fund to be used for any project the city may desire. The $9 million just cannot be inserted into the area.

The point on "being used elswhere" is that these funds will be given out for these types of projects. Would we rather it be invested in Lockport or some other upstate city? There is no tax savings from us not persueing this money. We could hunger strike ourselves in protest while someone else eats but where do we end up besides skin and bones of a city?

The question is how do we best use this low income money if we obtain it. If not painfully obvious it should not be used for towers on Main St or psuedo-suburban apartment complexes which hurt more than help. It needs to be put into existing housing stock or new housing that mimics the existing housing stock in size and placement.

The YWCA aspect may throw some kinks into the design by requiring a couple larger 4 unit buildings but some talented architect/planner (I know there don't appear to be too many left who can design on a human scale) should be able to design these units to fit in. Even semi-spearate buildings at the street connected at the rear (if needed) would retain the character.

The other missed opportunity was to simultaneously offer a program for existing homeowners in the area so they could feel a part of the investment. The lack thereof I feel is a good part of the negativity. There needs to be some type of pilot plans for homeowners willing to make large investments in a financially risky area.

Anonymous said...

MJ - whats the YWCA thing?
I agree that no owner in their right mind would put any money in to the street if their neighbor just got a free $9,000,000 grant.
Couldn't these tax credits somehow go to upgrading the whole street instead of just the 9 houses?
And HV seems good, but I gotta believe someone is making money off this. I still don't believe that it could possibly cost $1,000,000 a house (including all the costs)for these low income apartments.
If something seems too good to be true it usually isn't!

MJ said...

As for the YWCA element,from Buffalo News 8/21:

"The site will contain two four-apartment dwellings to be used as lodging for female victims of domestic violence and their families, to be assisted by the YWCA of Niagara.

Also on tap near the corner will be a pair of two-apartment structures, one newly built and the other to be in an abandoned house at adjoining 155 Genesee St., which is to be renovated."

In regards to your other point: I may not want to invest if a private owner was getting all that money (and I was not) but otherwise I would. Good low income housing will blend in to a street adding to the percieved value. I know of two houses on mine and one empty lot that I would love to have made over. I'b even happier if the city was putting in new sidewalks, trees, etc to build on it.

The blue house at Lagrange and Cottage is a great example of what can be accomlished with existing housing stock. I'd be more than happy to have any rentals (and single residences)on my street looking that nice.

They could theoretically somewhat hit "the whole" street if the money was applied to targeting existing structures and smaller empty lots. That was pretty much the first plan that did not win the needed funding. Maybe the YWCA element is giving a better chance for the targeting funding this time.

Alderman Jack Smith said...

I like the idea of offering some sort of tax incentive as discussed in the above posts, the current incentive program the City has is sorely lacking. I accept the criticisms offered here and generally give them serious consideration, as such, I hope that my responses reflect that, although I admit that my passion for and frustration of our current housing issues sometimes gets the better of me. I wonder if any of you would be willing to assist me in drafting legislation that would offer a fair and equitable incentive to encourage private developement within the City? If you are interested in such an undertaking, please contact me at aldermanjacksmith@yahoo.com. I hope that you will find that I am a reasonable person and a good listener. I truly do want want is best for my community!

Rocketboy said...

Jack... I still have that article about taxation based on land value lurking in the back of my head, but here are two good places to start.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax

-Overview of Land Value tax


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrisburg,_Pennsylvania#Property_tax_reform

-The effects of accounting for the Land Value with regards to property taxes in Harrisburg.

Here's the short version... it did good.

Anonymous said...

Jack -- It doesn't matter what you do in the future if you continue to add more and more low income housing to the area such as HV, no matter how nice the places are, other owners are not going to invest on the street. Non-subsidized low income rents do not support owners updating their properties.
The key to changing the area is to change the demographics, you needed to get apartments in their for the higher income people.
By adding even more low income than already exists you are just adding to the problem.
Big mistake!

MJ said...

The question is what will draw people to live there? You can buy houses on the East Side of Buffalo for $1 from the city but even then they are a hard (imposible?)sell. The city needs an overall plan and goals. We need to see where items like this, or private investment will fit into that plan. What am I investing to become a participant in? What is the vision for my city and my neighborhood?

To me the only reason to live in a city amongst dense houses is for walkability. Otherwise why not get the 1/2 acre suburban home with plenty-o-parking etc if you are always going to drive anyways? We have no plans (or zoning regs) that encourage walkabilty though. We are cloding down our neighborhood schools.

Genessee area (and those around it) will remain low on the desireablitiy scale thus being stuck with low income residents. We need to establish a desireable culture to lure in new $$$. We need to bring in jobs. We need to show opporuntiy.

As for tax structures that will most likely need a lenghty study (just as our need for a realistic urban zoning code would) as they are sticky not-well-understood topics.

I've always wondered what averaging payments would do. Say add 50% of the average price on your street, 30% or each block extending from it and 20% or parallel streets. In theory those who chose to let their property go would pay a penalty and those who invest would be given a deal.

Or 2: Freeze assesment upon sale. Reward people for turning around problem properties and for laying down long term roots. TO me its a much better system then scaring them away.

Either way the bills still need to be paid. We need a blueprint to future growth or almost anything we do is just some resistance to a slow downward slide.

Anonymous said...

"The question is what will draw people to live there? You can buy houses on the East Side of Buffalo for $1 from the city but even then they are a hard (imposible?)sell."
...and the point is this project will def cause people NOT to buy or invest there. You can't keep expanding low income housing in that area, unless you plan to just doom it to be a 'projects' area forever.
Again, why would anyone invest private money in an area where they can only get 'low income' rent? The only investment that will occur there is tax payer financed, i.e. HV.
I just can't believe the city is allowing HV to add additional low income apartments to what already exists.

Rocketboy said...

I for one, would not buy property next to a low income apartment complex, much less invest in property next to one.

Also, just to add on how much HV depends on the dole, since many of these apartments are to be subsidized, not only are the buildings being built with taxpayer money, not only are taxpayers absorbing HV's fair share of property taxes, but a significant portion of the money that HV will receive (before they sell the buildings in 20 years, possibly to some slumlord), will also be taxpayer money.

Nice business if you don't have the moral fiber not to partake in it.

MJ said...

1) I don't think there is one census tract in the city of Lockport that is not technically "low income". It's a much bigger turn around plan to get most of Lockport out of the "low-come rent" bracket. Supply and demand: Lots of outdated houses but not much higher income demand to rehab them. (And before someone mentions it: reducing supply by demolishing your assets is no solution.) I think the end goal here, or at least it should be, is to replace/rehab existing low income housing, not to "add to it".

2) I get your point about "low income complexes. That's why I'm not a fan of the two YWCA buildings proposed. They come off as a low-income complex regardless of how nice the exterior materials are. The units should fit in with the existing housing stock as mentioned. As for living next to one: in more progressive areas subsidized housing is built right next to $300k houses but it is spread out and built to match. As close as St Catherines ON you can see it. If we don't want to live next to one and also say we shouldn't be grouping it together: then what does that leave us with?

3)I agree you don't just want to add to the stock but if you look around its happening on its own. The housing stock in that area does need to be updated/rehabilitaed. Most funds available are from the state/federal gov't and are low income targeted. Not much we can do about that. These funds should be used to rehabiliate existing structures and infill new structures that match in scale and form. They need to be spreadout somewhat, yet need to be close enough to show a critical mass of updating/change in the neighborhood. It is then up to the city to implement STEP 2: creating incentives for private investment. As I said before, proposing this HV development, without concurently proposing "step 2" is creating a lot of the "backlash".

The HV project can be a valuable foundation if done right. It can also stall and just remain an empty foundation. Jack has done a lot of great legwork (along with the rest of the area block club) in finding and vetting HV. Obviously some more steps need to be taken to ensure we build off of it.

The ward meeting is 3 1/2 weeks away. Plenty of time to use our web access to find projects from cities around the country that we feel may have a shot at working here. Share them here before hand and we could potentially have an informed discussion about what we want to become and how we feel we can get there.

Jason Walling said...

As a rental property owner of two Genesee St. houses, I for one stand behind the HV project 100%. I may not agree completely with every detail of the project. I have definitely read the proposals and said to myself, "I would do that differently." Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture though, they are injecting change into an area that has otherwise gone unimproved for decades except for some fancy plywood windows. You may not agree with their plan's population density or their plan for a particular corner, but I don't see a lot of competitive proposals coming in to city hall.

I will agree with the ridiculous assessments of properties in Lockport and the obstacles it creates when trying to improve on your property. A proposal I would bring to the table is to give property owners improvement credits in the form of tax breaks. Each year, the city would reimburse property owners for improvements made to the property in the form of a tax rebate, with a max rebate of 15% or 20%. A list of approved improvements would be available that would directly affect improvements to the neighborhood, such as porch and roof repairs, new siding, windows, sidewalks, etc. The city would also agree to not re-assess the peoperty for a certain amount of time. I for one would definitely utilize the program, and keep utilizing it annually.

Concerned said...

Niagara Falls seems to have a much better answer than us - a large project that does not have any building bigger than duplexes!
http://www.buffalonews.com/city/article218647.ece

And Mr. Walling, you'd be nuts to improve your property when people are going to be living in $1,000,000 houses next to yours with rents averaging $550 while you as a tax payer subsidize them. Now if these houses weren't totally aimed at low income non-working people (due to tax breaks and the lack of parking which working families need) but instead were designed to diversify the neighborhood then investing would make sense. As it is you have to look at the finances, if you add money to your houses do you really think you will ever get more rent out of them?
And Mr. Smith, if you think this is a great idea because if we don't use this 'free' gov't money some other city will, how the heck can you say you won't vote for a tax increase when you won't stand on principles right now and say why is this money being wasted, because there is no way that Genessee St deserves million dollar houses, especially to add additional low income housing.
Makes a lot of sense to me, I want to clean up an area so I m going to add more low income apartments!

Jason Walling said...

11 Duplexes, Mr. Concerned. That's 22 units, or 22 tenants. I really don't believe this is going to leave my houses empty and unrented. I have never had one of my 14 apartments in the city of Lockport sit vacant for more than a month. Good housing is in demand in Lockport. Investing in my properties will only make mine more appealing. Personally if I'm going to spend the money anyway on property taxes, why not take that money and invest it in making my property look better? Wouldn't I be increasing it's resale value? Wouldn't I, along with other property owners on Genesee St be collectively improving the neighborhood? The object of the project is to clean up the neighborhood...both of eyesores and of lowlifes. Not all low-income tenants are lowlifes. I don't have a problem renting to low-income families. In fact 80% of my tenants would be considered low-income. I do however make a conscious effort not to rent to lowlifes. From the sounds of HV's policies on tenant screening, it sounds like we're taking a step in the right direction of getting the scum out of the Genesee Street neighborhood.

Concerned said...

Sure, I don't think you would find one person/couple/family with a good job and especially with kids that is from Lockport and knows the area that would rent on Genessee st as opposed to other areas of the city.
No matter how nice the houses look, adding more low income apartments to that area is a mistake.
And I don't get the duplex argument you had, I didn't mean that they were competition for Genessee St - I meant that as opposed to HV increasing the density of apartments on Genesee st, the NF project provided duplexes with nice porches trying to create a good neighborhood.
That would have been a great solution for Genessee St!

Jason Walling said...

Perhaps duplexes instead of multi-units could be a better solution. Perhaps porches would make it nicer. Perhaps a lot of different decisions could be made. That can be said of ANYONE's ideas or proposals. You're never going to agree 100% with a proposal of this magnitude. In my humble opinion, HV's project is going to do more good than harm. While you are griping about porches and density, HV has successfully completed this type of project in 5 other New York State communities. I think a company with that track record is more deserving of the title "expert" than any of us putting our two cents in. Are you a rental property owner, Mr. Concerned? Have you ever developed a housing project? Have you ever put an apartment up for rent on Genesee Street? My guess is no, because you would know that is not the crime-attracted, brothel filled neighborhood you secretly make it out to be in your head. I will sympathize with your ignorance though, because before I owned property in this neighborhood I thought the same way.

Do you have any hard evidence that building porches on the front of the new structures in Niagara Falls is going to turn the neighborhood around? Call me stereotypical but I think Lockport's HV project has a better chance of success than anything that happens in the falls. I happen to have rental properties in several areas of the city of Lockport. And while I may not be an expert in community planning and civic engineering, I can however confirm that there are families with children who go to work each day and make a living that rent apartments on Genesee Street. I happen to be a landlord to several of them. You could say I'm just being biased...but I'm not. What I am however, is an active landlord who constantly monitors all of my properties. I don't rent to trash and scum. It is not what I am about.

Genesee Street is historically a lower income area in Lockport. I don't believe the goal is to make it the next Pine Street or Lincoln Woods. The goal is to clean up the dilapated housing and crime filled apartments run by out-of-state/out-of-mind landlords and replace it with new, efficient housing that is run by a company that actively manages their property.

Let me ask this...do you think that if a developer were to come in to Lockport and replace all the structures on Genesee St with upscale single family dwellings, that there would be a decrease in low-income households in Lockport? The question is rhetorical, Mr. Concerned. The same amount of low-income families would still exist, they would just have to find other neighborhoods to live in. Some might possibly even move into yours.

Leave HV alone. They are doing good for community that has repeatedly been ignored and shunned for decades.

concerned said...

-Yes, I did own rental property in that area but sold it due to the hassles I had, mainly with neighboring property owners who didn't get good tenants and the frustration I had getting good tenants because of the reputation of the area.
- Sorry but it is a crime infested area, check the newspaper arrests!
- I am not asking for single family homes, but I do think it is ridiculous to increase the density of apartments as HV wants to do. Do you have plenty of parking at your apartments? If you don't, you can't get good tenants. HV is below the minimum parking spots per the code, I don't believe the city should have waivered on this.
- From what I can see HV's experience is in large cities, with local jobs, public transportation, etc. Lockport is really a suburb, not a city.

and basically I am against any idea that would use $9,000,000 of my tax dollars for 9 houses! Can you imagine how many jobs could be created with that money if given to businesses? Of course in our current 'Obamacare' mentality of course the PC answer is to give it away to people sitting around, not to give it to people who work for their money!

MJ said...

Auburn, Oswego, Cortland, Utica, Rome - major metropolitan areas overflowing with jobs for sure ;)

MJ said...

As for parking, the city shoots itself in the foot with its year round overnight ban, even in the densest areas. It provides me a lovely view of backyard parking lots.

http://www.housingvisions.org/housing_syracuse.htm
The house shown on this page should be the benchmark for any rehab work done here.

http://www.housingvisions.org/housing_cortland-crown.htm
This new build multi-unit should be the bench mark here. Especially for the infill along Pine.

This could be something great. We need to ensure that it is and that plans are in place to grow momentum.

Anonymous said...

MJ, you saw the plans - they aren't as nice as the ones you posted.

Rocketboy said...

"Leave HV alone. They are doing good for community"... do you honestly believe that? The only thing that HV does is to get taxpayers to pay for their profits. If it was not for taxpayer funded grants, and taxpayer funded tax abatements, HV would not exist.

Jason Walling said...

Yes Rocketboy, I do think they are going to do good for the community. How can you honestly say that the HV project is going to worsen things on Genesee Street? Have you driven down Genesee Street lately? With the exception of the Rosenburgs, it is cluttered with dilapated houses that are falling down. It is mind boggling to me that you and Mr. Concerned are so against this. I will agree with you on the parking issue. It can be frustrating. So I suppose your right: Let's just tell HV to go packing. We're better off just keeping our boarded up foreclosed houses. Parking just seems to work better with houses that aren't occupied at all.

Rocketboy...you are right. HV wouldn't exist without taxpayer funding. If leveling Genesee Street and rebuilding it was a lucrative project, Ulrich would have done it years ago. The fact is though, that a duplex that brings in $1,100 a month can only have a build cost of $165,000. It doesn't take a developer very long to realize that you can't purchase a piece of property, raze the falling down house, and build a new duplex for $165,000. It is obvious that some financial assistance is neccessary.

And finally Mr. Concerned: You say that you owned property in this neighborhood and sold it basically because you couldn't make it work. Where then, do you get off criticizing someone else's attempt at making something work in this neighborhood? You gave up. You controlled property in this neighborhood and had the opportunity to make all your grand plans a reality you did nothing. I suppose it's easier to sit at your computer and critique others.

Rocketboy said...

Long term, what they are doing is using someone elses money to make low income apartments in an area needs home ownership. Long term, apartments are causing damage in the city. So, if you look at just the section that HV is moving into in the short term, sure, replacing & upgrading buildings is a good thing. Long term and a wider view, is no. Because even if they do a super-fantastic job with their buildings, and with screening clients, the plan is in 20 years to sell off the buildings. So whatever good feelings they are giving you now, realize that in 20 years, Lockport will be back to where they were.

I also love the defeatist attitude that if it wasn't for HV, we might as well just consider it an abandoned war zone.

HV is in the busness of spending other people's money. If something does not make ecnomic sense, why is it OK for someone to be able to force me at gunpoint to pay for other people's profits when long term, they add nothing? (Think I'm being dramatic? Try not paying your taxes.)

Also, what long term jobs will this bring? What supplemental businesses will want to come to Lockport based on this project? What type of employee stock will relocate to this area because of this project? What type of press will this project generate? What changes to the image of Lockport will this project generate? The answers to these questions are why I feel like HV does not deserve to have any of my money that I was forced to pay.

We are better of with owner occupied single residence buildings. My money should be spent to help individuals improve their neighborhood.

We are better off with projects that make financial sense, even if we have to take a long view of what benefits that the project brings.

Also, with regards to your comments to Mr. Concerned, I'm sure he wouldn't have any problems if he received the same percentage of taxpayer money that HV is receiving.

Jason Walling said...

Does anybody on here have evidence of an HV project failing in any of the communities they have revitalized? According to their website their first project started over 20 years ago. They've used their little renovation plan over and over in all different run down communities throughout the state. It seems to me if one of these projects bombed, one of you advocates would have found that flop and used it in your argument as to why we should just leave Genesee Street to rot, or sit patiently and wait for our savior to come and fix it. I suppose I do have a defeatist attitude when it comes to the neighborhood...Give me evidence, or even rumor, that anyone besides HV has proposed a renovation of this magnitude in this neighborhood in the last 10, 15, 20 years.

As far as holding you to gunpoint for your money...Lockport is spending $50,000 of their own money on this project. The rest is coming from state and federal grants and loans. $9 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the working budget of New York State. There are many many other much grander wastes of money in New York State than this tangible improvement in your home town.

Rocketboy said...

Ah, the old 'drop in a bucket' argument.

Sorry, my bucket is overflowing with 'drops', and that's the problem. Even if we only discuss Lockport's direct contribution (which actually, is greater based on the long term lack of tax reciepts), Lockport is already going to be $700,000 short this year. Is it really prudent to just hand over even more money that we don't have? You don't see this as a problem?

Again, what long term benefits to the City will this bring? Jobs? Increased private investments? An increase in the educated work force? Positive national exposure?

Oh, someone will build something with someone else's money so they can sell it in 20 years.

How is that a benefit?

Do you not see that in 20 years, even if HV is the best thing that ever happened to the City of Lockport, that in 20 years they will sell the buildings and run away?

That's not a problem? That's a long term fix?

And again, I love how according to you it's either HV, or atom bomb, because, again, according to you, the only way to revitalize the Genesee street area is to have a corporation come in, take over, and keep the area as apartments.

Not to encourage owner-occupied home ownership, because that would just be crazy, wouldn't it?

But you know, I hope I'm wrong... but I firmly believe that I am right.

I have serious problems with this plan, and they all start with the amount of taxpayer money that they are being given. As I've said before, if this was 100% private funding, good luck to them. I hope it works out good. But as they are taking the majority of the risk with my money, I'm not cool with this at all.

Concerned said...

"Yes Rocketboy, I do think they are going to do good for the community. How can you honestly say that the HV project is going to worsen things on Genesee Street? ..... I will agree with you on the parking issue."
The good of new houses is good, the adding of more apartments without parking is bad. Why coldn't the city have pushed to make them obey our laws instead of bending for them?
"...you are right. HV wouldn't exist without taxpayer funding. If leveling Genesee Street and rebuilding it was a lucrative project, Ulrich would have done it years ago. The fact is though, that a duplex that brings in $1,100 a month can only have a build cost of $165,000. It doesn't take a developer very long to realize that you can't purchase a piece of property, raze the falling down house, and build a new duplex for $165,000. It is obvious that some financial assistance is neccessary."
But do you really think it's required to spend $1,000,000 a house? Doesn't that raise some flags?
"You say that you owned property in this neighborhood and sold it basically because you couldn't make it work. Where then, do you get off criticizing someone else's attempt at making something work in this neighborhood? You gave up. You controlled property in this neighborhood and had the opportunity to make all your grand plans a reality you did nothing. I suppose it's easier to sit at your computer and critique others."
I made a small amount of money on it, it wasn't worth the hassle. But my critique is, hey you are going about it wrong. Adding more low income apartments is not going to help anyone, it's going to just use more taxpayer dollars. Is it bad to sit back and make some suggestions how to improve it? If we are going to waste $9,000,000 here, why not do it right (lower density, correct parking) and hopefully improve the area instead of continuing the status quo!
"As far as holding you to gunpoint for your money...Lockport is spending $50,000 of their own money on this project. The rest is coming from state and federal grants and loans. $9 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the working budget of New York State. There are many many other much grander wastes of money in New York State than this tangible improvement in your home town."
$50,000 could have gone to grants to help everyone trying to help in that neighborhood, including you. $9,000,000 could have gone to businesses to create jobs.
I am not getting personal, this is a joke - but you sound like a local politician, it's OK to waste tax money as long as it's here cuz someone will! I wish that attitude would stop!!

MJ said...

We get ourselves in a round-and-round. But its fun so let's continue :)

1) The most "financially sensible" thing on an individual level to do is let the city rot and move outward. It's been that way for the last 50 years due to Federal Housing and Transportation policies along with NYS home rule laws. It's why we end up with epicenters of delapidated vacancy and low income housing with fringe developments along with the duplicated infrastructure. As I mentioned above: who expects a return on thier city house while still based in reality? What draw is there right now on Genesee? If all these houses were boarded up with no low income residents would we expect single home owners to move in?

2) Not everyone is cut out to be a home owner. There is nothing wrong with rentals or with income suites. The "House Poor" can also brnig down a neighborhood by being unable to keep up thier home.

3) "Your Money". At this time you have the option of "your" money (and everybody else's) going to places like Oswego to rehabilitate homes there or it can come here. The grant money is there for the bidding. I question why we would rather have it bypass our city instead of coming into it to perserve several houses and infill a couple lots.

4) "Your Money" again: The city should be putting their portion into infrastructure so the neighborhood as a whole gains something more tangible out their front door.

5) The infill site planning is what is the problem. The few houses that will be rehabilitated will look like they are supposed too. Filling in the ugly Trophy store site is a huge score but it should be done differntly to tie into the neighborhood. The building itself looks fine. People would propbably be all for them if they were out in the burbs. They just don't fit in the city.

6) I walk varying routes every morning around LaGrange, Genessee sometimes as far as Washburn. A distressed area? Yes. A war-zone? No. Potential? Huge. Obsticles to overcome? Many.

7) There a few boarded houses along this stretch. Some are ones with nice features too. I'm curious why these would not be the prime targets for this type of project.

8) I see the end goal here as being rehabbed houses and integral infill with infrastructure improvements to anchor further investment. The city still needs to figure out how to lure the further investment.

9) Maybe it would be better if people who did not like the project got their "portion" back?
$2.50 from the city, $0.25 from the state, and $0.01 from the country.

That's all the fun for today. I'll try to grab a few pics over the weekend of a few houses in need of the TLC and some examples of what the end product should be. Feel free to e-mail me any of your suggestions and I'll include them.

concerned said...

MJ,
Don't disagree with your comments but the point is, it doesn't matter what you say or like this project has already been rammed down our throats - the infills are already determined and the houses to be rehabbed are already picked.
And my main point is, OK, take the money but use it to improve the area, convert houses to less density not more, obey our previously thought out laws and provide proper parking, and rehab the worst houses - not the empty lots.

Rocketboy said...

"We get ourselves in a round-and-round. But its fun so let's continue :)"... which is why I was just about to punch out... :)

1) Which is why we should enact sensible policies to help correct that issue, and not to make it worse by encouraging projects like HV. (Random reminder of the apartment complex based living in the short story Novelty Act by Philip K Dick)

2) After living in many different sections in (eas side, a stone's throw a way from lowertown, core Lockport, north end) Lockport, I can firmly say that the best neighborhoods are the ones with the lowest amount of rentals.

3) Better it stay in the pockets of private investors.

4) Infrastructure is not a handfull of apartment buildings. But I agree fully with you. In that eternal back catalog of articles, is the sad state of our street signs. It does not instill confidence in a prospective home buyer when the stop sign is pink.

5) Better yet, is there something we can do with abandonded parking lots in that area? A park in the middle of DT would be a great resource and incentive to draw people into the neighborhood. You're dealing with a high density area with little personal property. Put a park a street over, and you'll start encouraging families to move in.

6) It's all a matter of perspective. I know someone who lives in NF who would consider that almost a nice area.

7) Ka-ching. And the encouragment that the city offers should be double for owner occupied.

8) I firmly agree with the goal, but I don't think that this will have the desired effect.

9) Straw man. How many times does someone take $2.76 from me for private projects? This also goes back to my if gov'ts didn't spend my money like there was no end to it, we could cut taxes enough that nobody would NEED incentives.

Either way, this project is GREATLY going to affect who I vote for in the next election cycle, and I encourage everyone who has issues with this project to do the same.

Rocketboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rocketboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ said...

We are racking up the comments. Maybe we can beat a concert series post?

1) I guess we will just remain at odds at this project making things "worse". Low income housing will exist. I find it more beneficial when it looks nice and is well ran. There is also nothing from stopping any Lockport Landlord from forming a not-for-profit and chasing this funding. Housing Visions started from a group of concerned residents in Syracuse.

2) The best is a nice mix of all (rentals/income suites, single family). One of the best sales pitches is living in a neighborhood, falling in love with living there and thus wanting to stay and invest in it. With DT being so close this area has a chance. But DT must become more of a daily draw.

3)Even "private" money is directed and subsidized by larger transportation, housing, etc policies. They make it smarter to invest in one place over a another leaving us to have to dump money back in the older places like this to perpetually try to turn them back around. The mid 20th century ideal of emptying out "old dirty cities" to some how magically rebuild them again some day was a huge failure who's interia still haunts us.

4) We agree here. Infrastructure should be new signage, sidewalks, street trees, light standards, etc. Items the whole street can enjoy.

5) Parks are also a double edge sword. In an area where people take ownership of them they are a draw. In areas where no one does they become a no man's land that people are scared of an repelled from. This is one of the larger failures of public housing projects with lots of green space. Good idea on the surface but it doesn't work. In my day dreaming, I've kicked around the old Harrison parking lot on Elmwood for some type of park.

6)And someone in Compton would consider NF a nice area. My point is that it is no where near beyond repair. Though if we start knocking to much stuff down etc it can quickly get there.

7)Hence my idea of frozen assessments upon purchase price. The bigger risk you take on a property, the bigger your reward (thank you?) would be.

8)-

9)This $2.76 has already been taken from your pocket (as have other $2.76 deductions) for low income purposes. Want it spent here this time to rehab properties or somewhere else again?

-This is state level funding at the nearest point so who will you be voting out? I do agree though. Almost doubling the state budget over the past 10 years is rediculous. But as long as this targeted money is flowing I'd try my best to funnel it here instead of somewhere else. Starving ourselves of capitol improvement funds so someone else in the state can use them instead will go unheard and only leave us behind.

Also a good portion of this is low interest loans. People keep talking like it's a $9m grant.
Low income housing must exist. Let's make its presence and available funding for it to start to better one of our needier areas.

MJ said...

Concerned:

Maybe this is a "done deal". If nothing else is gained from this, hopefully ideas, and better processes for future projects will be gained.

I do not understand why projects must be presented as finalized. It dosen't help when there is no city design code to quide the process to that point to begin with. Zoning laws are not design codes. They are vague numbers that leave you with crap for design more often than not. It usually takes zoning variances to allow a good design.

There is a need for a lot of change in the way the city is coded, etc. It needs to start being chipped away at.

concerned said...

MJ - my original wording was "WELL thought out zoning laws" and after re-reading it I changed it to "PREVIOUSLY thought out..." - lol!!!

Jason Walling said...

After reading the banter back and forth it is pretty evident that we're actually arguing from the same side of the fence. MJ, Rocketboy, Concerned, and I all want the same thing...We want this neighborhood off the map as the unofficial toilet of Lockport. The problem is that MJ and myself believe that HV can get us one step closer. Concerned and Rocketboy however, wish to reject HV's proposal and continue to wait for an imaginary revitalist to come in with his own money and revamp Genesee St to specifications derived from this forum thread. It's not going to happen. While I think the atomic bomb might be a little extreme, realistically speaking, if we were to send HV packing, I would be willing to put significant money down that there is not another developer standing in line with his own pocketbook. In fact I'm almost certain Genesee would remain unchanged for quite a while.

MJ is correct, the money has been taken already. Perhaps I should've been the one that applied for the grant. To be quite honest, I was ignorant to it's existance. I'm sure it's a bit more difficult than filling out a form. Perhaps all of us could form our own HV in the future and take on some other neighborhoods. HV has Lockport in it's best interest with this project, I am sure of it. I think the potential issues of density and parking will be upstaged by new structures, active property ownership, and the excitement of change occuring down there. HV has pledged to own the properties for 15 to 20 years. A lot can happen in that time. Perhaps a rental property corperation could be formed in that time that could buy the properties and ensure that they are never run down or rented to the wrong tenants again. Perhaps Rocketboy and Mr. Concerned could buy them, level them to the ground, and rebuild them the right way.

In all seriousness, I am a young property owner who is ambitious about my investment, and about Lockport. At 27, I have invested a great deal into this city's real estate, and I plan to continue buying. If any of you had any serious thoughts about a not-for-profit organization that worked on controlling rentals in Lockport, I'd be on board to discussing further.


Do me a favor and have a little trust in HV. Call me naive, but I think after you get past all the petty things you disagree with about this project, in the end it is going to be an improvement in Lockport, and should be looked at as a beginning of something that could potentially be much more effective.

Rocketboy said...

"Concerned and Rocketboy however, wish to reject HV's proposal and continue to wait for an imaginary revitalist to come in with his own money and revamp Genesee St to specifications derived from this forum thread."

Sorry. I stopped reading right there.

concerned said...

Yes, I agree. Pretty snarky comments, but I guess at 27 you have worlds of experience and obviously we are totally wrong.
The point I have been trying to make is that you will never change the character of the neighborhood by adding more of the same, it needed diversification. Plus, there is a reason for codes such as minimum parking - and in this case it wasn't even considered that someone should have talked HV in to a few less apartments and proper parking.
The other factor is, how does the city ever have a right again to turn down someone wanting to add apartments to an existing building with out enough parking?
But again, I don't know everything, I'm not 27!

Jason Walling said...

Ouch! Your really gonna throw the age thing at me? Your argument must be getting weak if your rebuttle to me is your my elder and you know better. My mother used to use that on me when I asked her why I couldn't stay up late.

I might not have years of experience in...ummm...bitching on forum threads, however I have had my hand in dealing with local low-income tenants and Lockport real estate. I know that one parking space vs. two is not going to make or break this project. I rent apartments with one parking space to upstanding citizens all the time who only own one vehicle. (It's the drug dealers who need all those extra spots for their customers) I may land baron or developer, but I'm on my way. And while I keep doing my part by purchasing property, being an active landlord, keeping trash out of my properties, and renting to hardworking, low-income families in the neat and well kept properties I modestly maintain, you guys can continue to gratify yourselves with your worlds of experience, your know-all knowledge of civic and community design, and your ability to speak your mind without signing your name to it on an internet forum. Do you really think anyone is going to listen to opinions that come from someone who calls themself Rocketboy?

Mr. Concerned...for future reference...in my 5 meager years of experience in dealing with the Lockport Building department and the codes of Lockport, I will tell you that it is not parking spaces that typically prevent you from adding apartments to a structure in the city of Lockport, it's the green space. 10,000 sq feet of green space (grass) is needed per unit for any new build. You could have a 12 space parking lot for 3 units, but if you don't have the green space, they won't approve the occupancy certificate. It is the green space that HV got the variance for, not the parking spaces. And to think, I'm only 27 years old.

Rocketboy said...

Really? That's just the saddest argument that I've ever heard. I don't use my real name, so I have worthless opinions. Sorry, not trying to pull an age thing, but I grew up in an era where using your real name on a BBS was nothing but an invitation for trouble. Where using a handle was a normal, accepted, expected thing.

I also believe in keeping different aspects of my life separate from each other. I keep my personal life separate from my business life. It's only the smart thing to do, because you never know who might hold something against you or the company you work for. It's just common sense, and allows me to actually be honest without fear of reproductions.

If you are looking for the reasoning behind the name "Rocketboy", it is a corruption of a cartoon that I watched as a kid. Regardless, I recall a Harlan Ellison story that included a line that goes "Names are coincidental, don't you think?" or at the very least something like that. So really, using a real name or a fake name has no weight or meaning to me.

But gee, I must have been a drug dealer when I was living in apartments, because I needed two spaces.

I'm not going to say anything further in this matter, as this is quickly becoming uncivil, but rest assured Jason, next time that we do business with each other, I won't hold this against you. Because, business is business, and my personal life is separate. With as angry as you sound, I'm not sure the same would hold with you.

Anonymous said...

MJ - this has been a very civil forum - perhaps Jason sould be calmed down some and reminded of that. Especially since he cannot accept that someone can respectively agree to disagree.
I am one that see's his point, but think it's ridiculous to put $9M into that street.

Anonymous said...

I should have said $9M in to the street unless the whole street was been updated, which cold have happened for that much money.
Also, you don't have enough experience dealing with really good, long term tenants if you think one spot is enough for a family!

Jason Walling said...

I sincerely apologize if I came across as angry. Perhaps my words don't reflect my inflections. I have been very interested in this discussion and quite honestly haved looked forward to it the past couple of days. Passionate I might be, but angry or uncivil I am not. To be be quite honest before last week I didn't realize a forum of this nature existed. I love to talk to people about Lockport. I think this city is extremely interesting and has a lot of potential, which is why I stick around. I must say, after rereading my comments above, the Rocketboy comment was below the belt. However everything else said I stand behind 100%.

Your little business comment intrigues me, Mr. Rocketboy. Your like the man behind the curtain I suppose. Coming from this generation I guess I really have nothing to hide. Someone a bit more computer saavy than me could probably figure out where the post is coming from anyway, so I figure why not just sign my name anyway. I haven't said anything I'm not proud to stand behind, or put my real name on. Opinions are opinions, and contrary to what you might believe, yours are respected.

MJ said...

-Nice behavior every one. Bravo ;) The internet is a place open to self interpretation. With the lack of body language etc, one never knows how their comment will be taken or the drama that will ensue. Thank you for acknowledging mistakes.

-As for this generation: there is something to be said for privacy. I don't feel we have yet to see all the consequences (known and unknown) for the sheer amount of information that people post today to be seen by almost anyone or anything.

-Anon: Again...it's not a 9 million dollar grant to do whatever with. This money is targeted for low income housing and a good portion of it is low interest loans. The city is not sitting on $9 million and looking to give it to someone.

-Parking an demolition gutted our DT. An over supply of parking is not a cure-all and in many instances actually degrades the area.

-I'll see what I can dig up on the rest of the properties.

MJ said...

Required green space is another mis-applied requirement along with the parking. A lot of these were created with "good intentions" but they dismantle the city and its walkability. The city zoning code needs a reality check and rewrite.

While driving along S. Tranist in the town, take into consideration that it was built around "well thought out" zoning codes for green space and parking. We can be thankful that it's "convenient" because it is not a place you would want to walk around and hang out.

Zoning is a bunch of meaningless numbers. For example: we could require minimum 75% clothing coverage for people eating out but the results may not be what we intended. Like green space, it is not just if it is there, but how it is placed, how it functions, etc.

You are correct through that less parking does equal more green space on a number of the properties.

MJ said...

-Jason: send me an email when you get a chance. Go to "Contributors" at the top left.

Jason Walling said...

MJ - not sure if you got my email or not. Sent it yesterday.

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