Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 13, 2014

City council OKs Housing Vision tax agreement

The Niagara Falls City Council has approved a tax agreement on a downtown housing project that was voted down last fall.

The council agreed to a 15-year tax agreement that will see Housing Visions, Inc., a Syracuse-based not-for-profit, pay 6 percent of rents collected on its project for the for the duration of the deal.

Seth Piccirillo, the city's Community Development director, urged the council to approve the agreement before it voted 4-1 in favor of the measure from Mayor Paul Dyster's desk.

Piccirillo described the deal a "payment-in-lieu-of-nothing" agreement, arguing that unlike traditional payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreements the city will be taking in payments on otherwise vacant and worthless property.

"This is not a PILOT," Piccirillo said.

The not-for-profit will take over eight vacant properties — five from the city and three from the school district — for the project, which will put up 41 rental units for low- and moderate-income Falls residents on Walnut Avenue and 5th,6th and 7th streets.

The city estimates the it will see a total of $261,000 over the course of the agreement.

In addition, the city will divest itself of all liability tied to the vacant lots and buildings and will avoid demolition costs for the houses and the former school administration building that the agency plans to renovate, Piccirillo said.

"The agenda item actually produces general fund revenue year over year, but does not request general fund revenue in return," Piccirillo said. "That's rare."

Housing Visions was awarded $2.9 million in low-interest loans and tax credits for the project by the state's Homes and Community Renewal office last month.

Voters supported the project in a school district referendum vote last fall, supporting the sale of the Walnut Avenue property and the sale of the frowner South Junior High School building to EB Emmanuel Realty, another developer by a measure of more than five to one.

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