Niagara Gazette

October 28, 2013

City plan calls for selling four Seventh Street properties to housing nonprofit

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Mayor Paul Dyster wants the city council to approve the sale of four city-owned properties to a housing nonprofit that provides affordable housing for low- and middle-income residents.

The council will vote on a measure at today’s meeting that would see the four Seventh Street parcels — two with vacant houses — sold to Housing Visions Inc. for $2,000. The agency plans to demolish the homes and build new apartments to coincide with their planned rehabilitation of a vacant school administration building owned by the school district into apartments.

The agency would also demolish the adjacent, district-owned storage garages with the intent of building new apartments on those plots.

Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo has been working with Housing Visions to move the project forward.

He said that by selling the properties to the agency the city rids itself of burdensome vacant properties while putting those parcels back on the tax rolls and eliminating any costs related to the probable demolition of those houses.

“All of it is vacant and not tax producing right now,” Piccirillo said.

The Syracuse based nonprofit, which runs apartments in Lockport that have received praise from community leaders there, would provide affordable housing for working low- to moderate-income residents who would be subject to the agency’s rigorous vetting process which includes criminal background checks.

The agency plans to apply for low-income housing tax credits and historic tax credits for the new builds and school restoration respectively.

Piccirillo, who has visited the Lockport Canal Homes project and Housing Visions projects in Syracuse, said the agency’s track record in helping to turn neighborhoods around along with its property management resume on other projects make the plan ideal for the long-abandoned buildings.

“Realistically there was no other plan for these buildings,” he said.

The project still depends on a Dec. 4 referendum vote that would allow the school district to sell the buildings to Housing Visions.

Should that vote fail the agency would then need to decide whether they would build apartments on the city land or revert the land to the city if the council approves the sale.

“Housing Visions would have to make a decision as to whether they would want to move forward with a much smaller project,” Piccirillo said.

A representative from the agency gave a presentation to city council at the Oct. 15 meeting and invited council members to contact him with any questions they might have.

Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said he planned on doing further research over the weekend before deciding whether he would vote to approve the measure.

“I might have some questions for Seth (Piccirillo) on Monday,” Choolokian said.

Choolokian said his main concern is making sure that property and business owners in the area are supportive of the project.

“I think there are some other groups that we need to get involved,” he said.

Dyster said the program’s success and popularity in Lockport will translate to the downtown neighborhood where Housing Visions plans to build.

“We think the more people learn about Housing Visions the more they’re not just going to be comfortable with the project, but excited about it,” he said. 

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257