City and Town of Batavia officials and the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced the creation of the Batavia Home Fund (BHF), an incentive-styled program designed to improve and grow the area’s housing stock on Friday.
The fund was created to address shared housing goals and establish methods to fund beneficial activities to enhance the area’s housing stock, including investments to rehabilitate vacant and blighted buildings as well as the conversion of rental properties into single-family homes.
Seed funding for the fund has been provided through a grant of $100,000 that was recently approved by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, a GCEDC affiliate.
“Maintaining a vibrant, strong residential housing stock within the City helps to eliminate blight and encourage smart, sustainable growth,” Batavia City Council President Eugene (Geno) Jankowski Jr. said. “The creation of such a fund furthers the City's strategic goal of enhancing our housing stock, as we have recently experienced through investments to create residential units at City View Residences and Liberty Square.
“The Batavia Home Fund compliments the Town's focus on agricultural, commercial, and industrial growth,” said Town of Batavia Supervisor Greg Post. “It’s important that as we continue to generate investment from these sectors with our economic development and public sector partners, we will have quality housing stock for the people who are pursuing these careers.”
The Batavia Home Fund will be supported by host benefit agreements with developers and homebuilders for future multi-family housing projects in the City and Town. Projects will be considered by a committee of City, Town and GCEDC officials to determine how funds raised will be utilized.
The new program mimics the successful Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (B2P) program, which enables brownfield remediation projects with funding from projects with a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement (PILOTs) in the City of Batavia.
It was also this program philosophy that fueled the creation of the Ellicott Station development, a four-story apartment complex at 50 Ellicott St. in downtown Batavia. The project has since been stalled after the announcement that Savarino Companies closed down operations, and the construction trailer was recently spotted being removed from the premises.
The Batavian reached out to City Manager Rachael Tabelski late Friday for an update on any progress with Ellicott Station and will provide that when a response is received. The latest update was that company CEO Sam Savarino had not communicated with city officials, and they had planned to meet with the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal this month about the situation.
As for this latest initiative, Tabelski said that “with the successful remediation of brownfield sites in the City, we believe the next step in Batavia’s growth is to provide a more robust offering of housing options.”
“The intent of the Batavia Home Fund is to encourage and incent developers and homebuilders to view Batavia as a market opportunity and, in turn, work with community stakeholders to identify areas where housing options can be developed.”
GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde said the City and Town-led effort supports public demand for housing investments and the capacity for a growing manufacturing workforce to contribute to the economy and community. GCEDC had fully supported the Ellicott Station project as a workforce housing complex, which ended up landing as a very low to low-income complex once ready for tenant applications.
From 2015-2020, Genesee County’s private sector employment increased 4.4 percent, along with Batavia’s food and beverage sector growing to almost 1,000 employees, the press release stated. These statistics and data support the county’s need for approximately 4,800 units over the next 20 years, as determined in a housing study conducted by Labella Associates in 2018.
“Improving Batavia and Genesee County’s housing stock will only enhance manufacturing growth opportunities,” Hyde said in the release. “With our food and beverage cluster nearing 1,000 workers at the Agri-Business Park and Plug Power and Edwards Vacuum set to hire hundreds of engineers, technicians, and operators at STAMP, this fund is ideally suited to attract and retain talented professionals so they can live in close proximity to their places of employment and contribute meaningfully to our community.”