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January 3, 2022 - 4:02pm
posted by Press Release in Kathy Hochul, housing, news, nys.

Press Release: 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that applications are now being accepted for the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund (NYS HAF), a program that will provide up to $539 million in aid or other direct assistance to help eligible homeowners who are at risk of default, foreclosure, or displacement due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. New York was the first state in the nation to receive U.S. Department of the Treasury approval to launch its program.

"For many, buying a home is the greatest source of economic and social stability, and our Homeowner Assistance Fund - the first in the nation to be approved - is a critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic felt disproportionately in rural communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities," Governor Hochul said."My administration will continue to stand by homeowners, renters and all New Yorkers every step of the way as part of our economic recovery."

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "What we do now to help our fellow New Yorkers keep their homes will impact communities and our state for generations to come by contributing to its vitality and building future successes. We cannot and we will not stand by as homeownership and economic gains are threatened in historically disadvantaged communities. Working with our partners in legal services and community-based housing organizations, we have designed the Homeowner Assistance Fund program to help our at-risk families in every corner of the state regain financial stability."

Attorney General Letitia James said, "As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the health and wallets of New Yorkers, it is critical that homeowners are granted the relief they need," said Attorney General Letitia James. "The Homeowner Assistance Fund will go a long way in helping homeowners get through this crisis, but it's imperative that these funds are used to support not replace the mortgage industry's own efforts to help struggling homeowners. Through our new Mortgage Enforcement Unit, my office will ensure that these funds go where they are needed and can protect as many homeowners as possible."

Designed and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS HAF targets low- to moderate-income homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments, property taxes, and water and sewer bills. The program is also open to owners of cooperative or condo units who are behind on maintenance fees, and manufactured homeowners behind on chattel loans, retail installment contracts or lot rents. 

Applicants may receive financial assistance to catch up on missed housing payments, to reduce mortgage debt to make monthly mortgage payments more affordable, and for homeowners who are unemployed, assistance with up to six months of future housing payments.

HCR is also working in partnership with the Office of the New York State Attorney General's Mortgage Enforcement Unit to advocate with mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers to ensure homeowners are receiving all available relief under federal and state rules. This may include extended mortgage terms, deferment of missed payments or forbearance amounts, and lower interest rates to reduce monthly payments. 

The NYS HAF call center - 844-77-NYHAF (844-776-9423) - will operate Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. to assist homeowners and provide critical information about the program and instructions on how to apply. 

The NYS HAF website - www.nyhomeownerfund.org - includes Frequently Asked Questionsa step-by-step application guide, and a document checklist so that applicants know what documentation may be needed to submit their application.

Last month, Governor Hochul announced the launch of the NYS HAF program website, an information call center, and a multilingual marketing campaign that is helping educate homeowners about the program and ensure all eligible New Yorkers, especially those in non-English speaking households, are ready and able to apply.

By examining previous assistance state programs, HCR designed a more streamlined application to ensure the process is simple and easy for homeowners to navigate. Efficiencies include: 

· Utilizing several industry-standard, third-party verification technologies that confirm applicant identification and/or ownership, and may limit the number of documents that a homeowner needs to provide as part of their application.

· Allowing the application to be started, paused, and resumed later without losing data and information already entered.

· Accepting signed attestations from applicants to minimize the number of documents they will need to submit.

To make the application process accessible for all homeowners, and to assist those with limited access to technology or limited English language fluency, HCR has made the following accommodations: 

· Applicants may authorize a relative or other surrogate to submit an application on their behalf and continue to communicate directly with program staff to track the status of that application.

· NYS HAF has partnered with a network of over 70 housing counseling and legal services providers to allow direct access to the online application portal and who will be able to submit multiple applications on behalf of their clients.

· Homeowners can contact the NYS HAF call center and apply over the phone.

· The website and supporting materials are available in English and ten additional languages: Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and Spanish.

· The online application is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish.

· The Call Center will be able to assist with language translations for any application

Since announcing the program in early December, HCR mobilized an outreach and education campaign directed to vulnerable homeowners to ensure they understood the program and were prepared to apply. This included mobilizing a team of 23 community-based organizations, covering every region of the state, to work with their targeted constituencies of at-risk homeowners. Areas of particular interest are those historically subjected to housing discrimination, areas where homeowners may have limited access to the internet, and communities where there is a high level of homeownership distress.

In addition, a statewide multilingual marketing campaign was created in an effort to reach vulnerable homeowners in their own language through trusted media outlets in communities where English is not the primary language.

The NYS HAF program is administered by Sustainable Neighborhoods LLC, a non-profit community development financial institution selected through a competitive Request for Proposals. Sustainable Neighborhoods has extensive experience administering foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation programs across the state.

Sustainable Neighborhoods CEO/Executive Director Christie Peale said, "Thousands of low-income homeowners who have been struggling financially because of COVID will now get the relief they desperately need, thanks to the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund. Whether you live in a manufactured home, a condominium, coop or a single-family home, we encourage you to apply as soon as possible to receive assistance. It is urgent that we help as many families as possible keep their homes, despite the damaging impacts of the pandemic. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership and dedication."

March 31, 2021 - 3:24pm
posted by Press Release in Steve Hawley, news, CARES Act, housing.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley joined other members of the Assembly and Senate Minority Conferences on Wednesday in calling on Gov. Cuomo to release $1.3 billion in CARES Act housing assistance funding to aid tenants and landlords.

If the money were to go unused by the end of September, it is possible the federal government could take the funds back, leaving tenants and landlords without much-needed assistance. Tenants have struggled to pay rent due to the pandemic, causing many small landlords to face difficulty in paying their mortgages.      

“People need this money now more than ever, and to leave it sitting around during this time of great need is unconscionable,” Hawley said. “Helping every day New Yorkers should be our number-one priority during these times, and for most people their priority number one is keeping a roof over their heads.

"This money will go a long way toward keeping people’s rents and mortgages paid, and I see no reason we should wait any longer in getting it to those who need it most.”  

December 18, 2020 - 12:35pm

Submitted photo and press release:

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) welcomes Kahlil Simon into his new position as a Housing Specialist.

In this role, he will assist individuals to apply for, and navigate, the programs and services offered through ILGR, including, coordinating housing evaluations for persons experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, household budget counseling, employment advocacy, home environmental accessibility consultation, as well as serving as a liaison with landlords.

Prior to this promotion, Kahlil Simon served ILGR as a Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Peer Specialist, where he earned a New York Peer Specialist Provisional Certification.

Before his coming to the Agency, he had worked as an Imaging Services Secretary at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, where he was recognized with an Exemplary Service Award. During his tenure at the Medical Center, Simon was inspired to seek work that was more community service-oriented, ultimately obtaining employment with ILGR. 

About his new position, he says, “Here at ILGR, it’s my goal to provide a service to the members of our communities that are in need of assistance, while upholding the high standards of this organization.”

Simon attended Genesee Community College in Batavia after moving to the area from Brooklyn.

ILGR is delighted that Kahlil Simon will continue to serve the disability community in this new position.

Independent Living of the Genesee Region is a member of the Western New York Independent Living Inc. family of agencies that offers an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

February 8, 2018 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, housing, notify.

Genesee County has an oversupply of owner-occupied housing for the extremely low-income people and not enough for market-rate renters, according to a housing study released yesterday.

There's also a shortage -- to the point of being essentially nonexistent -- of single-family, owner-occupied housing for households with incomes of $100,000 to $150,000.

Ed Flynn, a consultant with LaBella Associates, and 24-year resident of Batavia, presented the findings of the county-commissioned housing needs assessment to a gathering of local officials and residents last night at the Old Courthouse.

Other problems facing the county are a slowly declining population and an aging population.

"The demographics and the economics are changing," Flynn said. "The community must recognize that the type of community that Batavia or Genesee County was 10 years ago has completely changed. The type of households have completely changed and we have to recognize and acknowledge that economic development does matter. So in order to avoid the current projections where there is continual population decline you really need to create jobs."

The flip side to shortages in housing is there is demand. 

There is demand for middle-income, owner-occupied, single-family housing. There is demand for smaller-unit, smaller-lot, single-family housing in the city. There is demand for market-rate rental properties.

And what people say they want in their housing of the future is housing that is ADA-accessible, with sidewalks and trails and access to alternate forms of transportation and connected to amenities and services.

"Based on the survey, we got a lot of feedback," Flynn said. "People said, 'we want more than just a house. We want a community.' 

"So let's look at some small lots, areas of compact development patterns where you can walk and where there are landscaping and smaller houses. Let's look at some downtown areas or some compact development where you can do some of these high-end houses or a mixed-income housing in the downtown areas or some strategic areas in other villages and towns."

As evidence of the demand for market-rate rentals, Flynn pointed to the new apartments that have been added to the downtown housing stock over the past few years. In each case, these apartments were snapped up immediately at rates of $1,000 to $1,500 a month.

Flynn said it will be interesting to see if that trend continues with the four new apartments in the former Newberry's building go on the market, but based on the survey data, it appears the demand for that kind of housing is still present in the City of Batavia.

According to the data gathered for the report, there are 2,070 households in the county with upper-level incomes and only 889 rental units suitable to that market.

There may be additional opportunities to rehabilitate other existing structures and housing units that meet market demands but with more than 80 percent of the housing in the county more than 50 years old, there is growing demand for new housing.

The problem in attracting new housing development, however, is the low cost of current housing.

The median single-family housing price has dropped from $115,192 in 2000 to $107,000 in 2015. Rental rates have risen only slightly, from $715 in 2000 to $724 in 2015.

The average cost of an existing housing unit is $83 per square foot. The average cost of new construction is $175 per square foot. That means an existing 1,650-square-foot house might sell for $136,950 but it would cost $288,750 (excluding developer profit and permitting fees) to build a new 1,650-square-foot house.

Without government-backed incentives, Flynn said, it will be difficult to attract developers to Genesee County to build new housing.

Those trends holding housing prices down also means owners are less likely to upgrade and improve their existing properties, whether owner-occupied or rental.

"If you have a house and you know the value is not going to change, you are probably not going to do as many updates," Flynn said.

Among the recommendations in the report is creating a countywide program to provide incentives for owners of single-family homes to rehabilitate and upgrade those units.

Over the next 20 years, there will be a demand for 4,804 additional housing units in Genesee County, according to the report.

There will be a need for 2,858 single-family units, with 1,699 on standard lots and 1,159 on small lots.  

Nearly 80 percent of the 4,804 new units will need to be rental properties, with 1,138 of those being part of multi-family complexes.

While most people, the survey found, want to live in single-family homes -- 78 percent -- there increasing interest in multi-family or small units, such as patio homes, townhouses, senior living apartments, duplexes, and apartments (89 percent).

Forty-two of the respondents said they want to move into smaller living units and 33 percent said they want lower cost housing in the future.

There is also a strong need for housing the meets the needs of people with disabilities, with 13.4 percent of the population having some sort of disability. With an aging population, that number will grow. Nearly 20 percent of the people in poverty are disabled.

For the poor, housing is often substandard or too expensive for their income levels. More than 6,800 households in the county are living with housing with problems. Examples include plumbing problems or substandard kitchen facilities. More than 20 percent of renters are paying more than one third of their income in rent and more than 20 percent are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent.

For owner-occupied homes, there is an oversupply of extreme/very low-income units, with only 885 households qualifying at that income level and 3,355 such units in the county. 

Meanwhile, there are 15,050 households who could afford market-rate and higher owner-occupied properties but only 8,871 such units exist.

There is also demand in the low-income range -- between extremely low income and middle income -- for suitable housing.

For renters at the very low-income spectrum, there are 1,600 such households and only 565 such units available. 

Meanwhile, there is an oversupply of low-income and middle-income rental units.

"We need to consider economic development," Flynn said. "And I'm not just saying that because I like the folks at the EDC (county Economic Development Center) or other economic professionals, because if you create jobs and you create wealth you're going to create demand for housing."

Click here (PDF) for the written report.

June 30, 2017 - 12:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Housing Authority, news, housing, notify.

The Batavia Housing Authority will receive a $227,424 federal grant as part of a $397 million package for New York's public housing programs.

The authority provides subsidized housing to low-income residents in four complexes in Batavia, including 400 Towers, The Pines at 4 MacArthur Drive, Edward Court at 15 Edward St., and The Terraces at 193 S. Main St.

Press release:

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand today announced $397,628,820 for housing authorities across New York State. The funds were allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund. Schumer and Gillibrand said the funding will help housing authorities develop, finance and modernize their public housing facilities.

“Having a roof over your head is one of life’s basic necessities, so we must do everything we can to help provide those truly in need with a decent and affordable place to live. This federal funding will help support affordable housing initiatives throughout New York that assist needy families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to find an affordable place to live,” Senator Schumer said.

“We need to invest more federal funds to help more low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities in New York with access to affordable and safe housing,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These resources are vital for vulnerable communities and I will continue to do everything I can in the Senate to make sure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

HUD’s Office of Capital Improvement administers the Capital Fund program, which provides financial assistance in the form of grants to public housing agencies (PHAs) to carry out capital and management activities; acting as the primary tool to preserve New York's affordable housing stock. These federal dollars are used to increase a PHA's ability to maintain the physical infrastructure of developments and improve the safety and security of its residents. 

June 15, 2017 - 3:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in housing, news.

Press release:

Genesee County wants to know your thoughts on housing and if local housing meets your needs. A survey has been launched to get input from County residents and is available online at:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/geneseehousing

Paper copies will be available next week at the Richmond Memorial Library and the Genesee County Senior Center. The survey will help the County, its municipalities, housing developers and other housing providers identify unmet needs and demand for various types of housing throughout the County.

The survey is part of the Genesee County Housing Needs Assessment and Market Analysis project. It will document housing needs, analyze the housing market and identify feasible strategies to meet the future housing needs of Genesee County. Genesee County, its municipalities and local housing agencies can use the report's findings to support both rehabilitation and new construction of housing.

Whether you are happy with where you live now or are looking at new housing options for the future, please take a few minutes to fill out the survey. The survey will be launched June 19th and responses will be accepted until July 7th.

May 18, 2017 - 6:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, housing, planning and land use.


It takes good data to make good decisions and a lot of times when planners are considering housing projects, the developers with the proposals are the ones who have all the data.

A new housing needs assessment for Genesee County will help solve that problem, said Felipe Oltramari, the county's planning director. 

"(Developers) are not going to come into a market where they know there is no need," Oltramari said. "They did their own study, but it's a private study that is focused on their segment of the market."

As part of the needs assessment process, the county hosted an open house at the Senior Center on Bank Street last night, which gave the residents who attended an opportunity to provide feedback on what they see as local housing issues, whether it's too much stock in one place, or of one type, or not enough of something.

Oltramari said the comprehensive study will also use interviews with various stakeholders in the community, whether they be veterans' groups, groups that serve seniors, the disabled and business groups. Officials and consultants will also try to identify the housing needs of Millennials. The goal is to get a broad picture of what is needed, which will help guide planning decisions and maybe uncover undetected needs.

"When a study like this happens, you will be able to put that information out there for some developers who may not be looking at this area," Oltramari said

The study is expected to be completed by December.

Oftentimes developers look at census, sales data and current housing patterns to identify a need in a community -- that same data will be gathered for the county's assessment -- and then try to fit a project into that community. But in a small community such as Genesee County, there are potentially niche needs that private developers won't uncover on their own. The county's housing needs study could identify a potential need and make that information available to developers who might decide trying to fill that need could be profitable.

"We want to make sure we’re looking at all segments of the market," Oltramari said. "One thing we heard, especially when Muller Quaker came, there was no housing for executives and lot of them ended up living outside of the county. When STAMP comes, we want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen."

The county's own study will also be used to confirm, or not, what private developers say is a local need. For example, when DePaul Properties was still pursuing a $25 million project on East Main Street in the City, CEO Mark Fuller said DePaul had identified needs in the city for more housing for disabled people, seniors with diminished mobility and veterans. Asked where those people are now, Fuller said they are most likely living with parents or in substandard housing.  

That could be an example of a market need that isn't readily apparent to most observers, but solid data could help identify.

(The project was stymied by a City Council decision not to change the zoning of the property from industrial to commercial.)

"They (developers, such as DePaul) know that and they might do their own research and come to that conclusion, but we haven’t seen that research," Oltramari said. "I’m sure there is probably that need, because they have a business model and they have to make sure the project is going to work, so there is some evidence, you have to trust that. But it’s nice to really have the tool to show 'yes, there is that need and this is something we should support as a community.' "




May 8, 2017 - 3:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in DePaul, housing, batavia, news.

The developer of an apartment complex intended to provide an increase in affordable housing for people with disabilities, especially seniors with disabilities, in Batavia, said this afternoon that he intends to ask the City Council to table a resolution tonight that would rezone the land needed for the apartments.

Mark Fuller, a Genesee County resident, intends to build more than 80 units in a complex at 661, 665 and 679 E. Main St., Batavia.

"We're actually going to ask them to table the vote tonight until a housing study comes out in the middle of the year that I think very much supports the need for this type of housing," Fuller said. "That (the study) was brought up by a couple of council members, so we at least want to give them a chance to read the study before taking the vote."

The lots are currently zoned industrial and in order for the project to go forward, the council would need to rezone it to C2, a commercial designation that would allow apartments.

The lots are a former state police barracks and are surrounded by mostly residential and commercial property.

Two weeks ago, the council voted by a narrow 5-4 margin to move the resolution for rezoning to tonight's business meeting.

"In all the projects that we've done, we've had nothing but great support," Fuller said. "I'm just surprised there's been some pushback from City Council."

Fuller is currently working on 18 similar projects around the region for DePaul Properties, he said.

He said he thinks there is community support for building the apartments and that there is an unmet need in the community for this type of affordable housing oriented toward people with disabilities, seniors with disabilities, and veterans.

"We've had nothing but terrific support from everyone I've talk to about this," Fuller said.

He said once completed, even with a PILOT agreement in place, property taxes generated by these apartments would still be four times more revenue for the city and school district than the revenue currently generated by the existing use. Plus, the development would pay a substantial bill for municipal sewer and water.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m.

Interview conducted by The Batavian's news partner, WBTA.

December 28, 2016 - 1:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pathstone, housing, news.

A portion of $8 million being set aside for low-income home ownership will wind up in Genesee County, according to the governor's office.

In a program administered by the  Rural Housing Opportunities Corporation, based in Rochester, qualifying low-income residents will be able to get assistance with repairs and upgrades related to health and safety concerns, code violations, energy conservation and other environmentally friendly improvements.

RHOC, part of Pathstone, is receiving $440,000, which will be divided among applicants in Genesee, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca and Wayne counties.

The funding is the latest round of nearly $170 million set aside by the governor over the past several years for such projects. 

The program targets households at or below 80 percent of the area median income, with a maximum AHC allowable income limit of 112 percent of HUD’s low-income limits, adjusted for family size.

Homeowners who qualify can apply for up to $40,000 per dwelling.

July 2, 2015 - 4:00pm
posted by Traci Turner in pathstone, genesee county, housing.

Heidi Kollarik is one of the many people PathStone has helped to accomplish her goal of owning a home for her two children.

Kollarik, a single mom and hairdresser, had just moved out of her parent's house and into an apartment in Oakfield when she decided to look into a homeownership program ran by PathStone, a not-for-profit community development organization. She wanted to purchase a house but didn't have the funds for a down payment. To find out more about buying a home, she signed up for PathStone's pre-purchase education classes in 2011. Some of the skills she learned included budgeting, managing credit and home financing.

After completing the classes, counselors met one-on-one with Kollarik to help her with the rest of the purchasing process. She was able to secure a $105,000 loan and buy a house in Oakfield in 2014. She also obtained a $21,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships program to assist with the down payment and closing costs. The entire process took three years but it was all worth it in the end Kollarik said.

"I'm so thankful they were able to help me obtain my dream of having a home for my children because it would not have been possible to buy a house being a single mom," Kollarik said.

During her annual agency review for the County Legislature, Sue Boss, executive director of the housing council at PathStone, met with the Human Services Committee meeting Monday said the homeownership program has assisted 1,550 people purchase their first home in the county since 2010. Boss said approximately 95 percent of those people were eligible to receive grant funding. 

To be eligible, applicants have to be approved for a mortgage, meet income criteria and provide some of their own money for the transaction. Many of the applicants who have received assistance had a household size of two to three people with a female head and an average income of $33,000. 

The program is funded through federal, state, county and private aid. Some funds people can receive money from include New York HOME funds and Revolving Loan funds.

The program will also be offering additional funding after it receives a home grant for $200,000 through the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal and a $300,000 grant through the New York Affordable Housing Corporation.

To determine if grant money is available, all their applicants receive counseling and given the option to take classes on purchasing a house.

"Anybody that comes to our program receives individual counseling from our certified counselors," Boss said. "We also offer group education classes. In the classes we cover everything from credit and debt management, how to shop for a realtor, home inspections and what the house purchasing process is from start to finish."

In addition to the homeownership program, PathStone offers a handyman program, an owner occupied rehab program and foreclosure and default program for Genesee County residents.

The handyman program runs in conjunction with the Genesee County Office for the Aging to help people over the age of 62 repair minor issues with their homes. Applicants can be renters or homeowners. All services are free if their income is 80 percent or below HUD's median-income figure. According to Boss, the program serves 240 households a year. 

The owner-occupied program provides homeowners with funds for structural and mechanical repairs. This program is currently on a hiatus but will back up and running as soon as a grant is released. 

The foreclosure and default program is ran by PathStone's affiliate the Housing Council to assist residents that are in default on their mortgage. Grants are available through the New York Mortgage Assistance Program, a new program that launched this year.

With all these programs, the organization aims to fulfill its mission to encourage individuals, families and communities to obtain economic resources for building better lives. PathStone has been providing services in New York since 1969.

To honor foundations and members of the community that support its mission, the organization will be having a community luncheon on July 10 at the Clarion Hotel. They also will present the PathStone Visionary Award to Jay Gsell, county manager.

April 28, 2015 - 10:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, housing, abandoned properties.

To whatever degree some council members were skeptical of a proposal to create a tax exemption to encourage investment by home buyers into vacant and abandoned houses, that skepticism is gone with the change of the season.

The Batavia City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the process to create the exemption. 

That process requires the council to pass a resolution, which it did, asking the Legislature to create a bill and generate a bill number amending the city's local law to create the exemption.

Once that's done, the city can give final approval to the exemption.

The exemption would apply to any single-family home that has been abandoned and vacant for at least three years and a would-be owner-occupant is planning on investing money on restoration.

The targeted home is one where the cost of rehabilitation exceeds the value of the home.

Typically, a home requiring less repair wouldn't yield much in the way of an increase in assessed value, making the proposed exemption of little value.

The exemption only applies to the portion of the property tax generated by an increase in assessed value as a result of improvements to the property.

There are a number -- though the exact number is unknown -- of vacant and abandoned homes in the city that can be salvaged before they completely deteriorate.

City officials have made the point several times that vacant and abandoned properties bring down neighboring property values and are a potential blight on the city.

In a report to Council, City Manager Jason Molino said vacant and abandoned properties are costing the city at least $25,000 in unpaid taxes per property, $11,300 in unpaid fees and fines and more than $500,000 in lost local buying power.  

The assessed value of the properties continues to fall while they sit dormant.

The proposed exemption is just one prong in the city's strategy to deal with vacant and abandoned properties. City officials are also trying to inventory all the properties and use code enforcement to get banks, mortgage and/or title holders to deal effectively with the properties or get them on the market.

Creating incentives for potential home buyers to invest in such properties will help spur banks into putting the homes up for sale, it's hoped.

Two previous objections raised by council members were addressed in Molino's report.

First, if the property owner is eligible for more than one exemption, the property owner will receive only one exemption and that will be the one most financially favorable to the property owner.

Second, on the objection that the proposed exemption creates an unfair disparity in benefits, there is already a tax-exemption program in place for property owners who wish to remodel their existing properties. The council approved the exemption in 2010 and it applies to all 3,611 single-family homes and 712 double-family homes in the city. It provides an exemption on the increase in assessed value for remodeling projects with greater than a $3,000 investment.  

So far, four property owners have entered the program with an average investment of $33,000 and resulting increase in assessed value of $22,225.

Councilman Eugene Jankowski said he received a number of favorable comments from constituents about the proposed exemption.

"People say we're on the right track," Jankowski said.

December 29, 2014 - 5:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, housing.

Sometime soon after the first of the year, Vito Gautieri expects to get word from at least one bank on funding for his planned apartment complex atop of Save-A-Lot at 45-47 Ellicott St. in the City of Batavia.

Gautieri is planning a four-story structure with 30 quality apartments with rents ranging from $800 to $1,100 per month.

He expects to begin construction on the "Casa Mia" complex in February. Completion will depend on arrangements with another contractor, but could come as early as the Winter of 2015.

"It’s a nice project and we’re working like mad on it to see if we can get it going as soon as the financing is done," Gautieri said.

If it comes through, Casa Mia will be a nice boost for the Downtown economy, said Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corp.

"Our marketing reports have told us there is a need for quality, urban housing in Downtown Batavia," Pacatte said. "There is a boom in Rochester and they're taking full advantage of the demand from millennials and empty-nesters for more quality apartments. We're excited about it. It brings more disposable income Downtown, more shoppers, more diners, which is what we're looking for."

Gautieri has not applied for any financial assistance from the BDC nor the GCEDC, he said, though he may seek a tax break through the city's 485(A) program.

The BDC has worked to spur development of several apartments on Jackson Street and Jackson Square, all in the $800 to $1,000 per month price range, and every unit was rented as soon as it hit the market.

That, and the marketing studies, gives Gautieri a high degree of confidence that his 30 units will fill up quickly.

"There's a lot of advantages to living downtown for young people and the elderly," Gautieri said. "It will be a good compliment to the Save-A-Lot and within walking distance you've got seven or eight restaurants. That should really make it attractive for people."

He anticipates from 70 to 80 people, including children, will live in the apartments.

Sav-A-Lot occupies only half of Gautieri's property there. He's been unable to find businesses willing to rent the other half of the building, so he's planning to convert that space into covered parking -- 32 spaces -- for the residents of the apartments.

The building was originally constructed by Gautieri for Montgomery Ward and the second floor was intended to be a warehouse, so it was engineered to hold a lot of weight.  

That construction is what enables Gautieri to now add two more floors of apartments.

The second floor will be flats. As soon as funding is approved, crews will get busy opening windows and erecting interior walls.

Gautieri is negotiating with companies in Buffalo and Clifton Springs for pre-fab apartments for the planned third and fourth floors.

If an appropriate deal can be brokered, he anticipates finishing the project by the end of next year.

If his own crews have to build the structure, then it will take well into 2016 to finish.

The apartments on the fourth floor -- Gautieri doesn't call them penthouses, "there are no penthouses in Batavia," he said with a chuckle -- will rent at the higher rates, but the first tenants will be able to customize their spaces.

The project is exciting, even if the BDC isn't directly involved, Pacatte said, because more people living Downtown will drive economic growth, help fill retail spaces and bring in more people.

Studies show that each downtown housing unit drives $19,000 in demand for retail goods and services.

"Investment into Downtown that responds to the market findings will be another win for our efforts toward community renewal," Pacatte said. "The Jackson Street owner investments in recent years have already proven successful -- reaching 100-percent occupancy within weeks of becoming available."

The Ellicott Street project isn't Gautieri's only apartment plan Downtown. He's also planning a project for his property at 45 Liberty St.

The project will consist of small, single-occupant apartments aimed at young people just starting out in life or elder people on fixed incomes with minimal residential needs.  

"There's companies doing some of these in Rochester and they're rented before they even start construction," Gautieri said.

He's also planning to convert one of his office buildings on Liberty, where he already operates storage units, into storage units.

December 29, 2014 - 4:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Business, housing, Big Tree Glen.

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today funding of $16.5 million for 240 units of new affordable housing across the state, including more than $2 million for Big Tree Glen, a project being planned for West Main Street Road, Batavia.

From the press release:

This $12.2 million project is being co-developed by Conifer LLC and United Memorial Medical Center to consist of 56 affordable rental units in seven two-story buildings. The project meets the Early Award Housing Opportunity Project goal in that the project will be served by Pembroke School District, one of the highest-performing districts in Western New York. The project is also in close proximity to jobs, shopping and services. The Town of Batavia supports the project, as evidenced by the approval of a Special Use Permit, approval of the preliminary site plans, and the issuance of a negative SEQRA declaration.

HCR funding for this project will be provided through a Housing Trust Fund award of $1,382,135 and through a $775,583 award of Federal Low-Income Housing Credit, which will leverage Bank of America and CPC loans of $2.2 million and $1,050,000 respectively, $120,000 of NYSERDA funds, and a deferred developer fee of $208,612.


November 14, 2014 - 11:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Business, GCEDC, housing, Calamar, senior housing.

A developer seeking to build a senior housing complex in Batavia has filed a lawsuit against the Genesee County Economic Development Center over the board's decision in July to block the project from receiving tax breaks.

The suit alleges that the GCEDC board's decision was "arbitrary and capricious, irrational, an abuse of discretion and affected by an error of law."

The suit calls for a court-ordered reversal of the decision to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and the proposed tax abatement. 

It doesn't ask the court to actually grant the tax breaks. Typically, the GCEDC board votes on whether to grant tax exemptions after a public hearing. Calamar is seeking to present its project to the public and give the public a chance to weigh in on whether it should receive more than $1.4 million in tax breaks for the project.

Calamar has a contract to purchase 33.4 acres at 3989 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. The development plans call for 110 middle-income apartment units rented exclusively to people 55 and older.

The developer, with offices in New York, Canada, Massachusetts and Nebraska, says it plans to invest more than $11 million in the project.

GCEDC's position is that the lawsuit is without merit. 

Here is a statement provided by Rachael J. Tabelski, marketing and communications director for GCEDC:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is in receipt of a notice of a file of claim against our organization by Calamar Enterprises as a result of a recent vote by the GCEDC board.

We believe the allegations in the claim are without merit and will be determined by the courts as such.

As this is a legal matter, the GCEDC will have no further comment.

The suit implies that Calamar was misled about GCEDC's willingness to support the project and that the board's decision went both against GCEDC's own policy and prior approvals for similar projects.

The project was first presented to the board by Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, in February.  Masse said during the meeting, according to a quote in Calamar's petition, that he was looking for feedback from the board. 

Calamar said that GCEDC's attorney told the board that although the project wasn't manufacturing, "This project is authorized and allowable under IDA law."

At a March 6 meeting, CEO Steve Hyde reportedly informed the board that GCEDC had participated in housing projects previously, such as the Manor House and the Jerome Center.

The petition claims that Masse continued to work closely with Calamar officials on project plans and proposed tax incentives in the following months.

At a staff meeting in June, the petition states, Masse gave every indication the project would get a green light.

"At no time during this meeting did Mr. Masse state that the Agency had concerns about the Project or was unwilling to support the Project," the document states. "To the contrary, all statements made and actions taken by Mr. Masse indicated that the Project had the support of the GCEDC, justifying the significant investment of time and resources by Calamar."

The project was put before the board July 10 for approval of a public hearing.

The board voted to deny Calamar a public hearing on the project and Calamar is accusing two board members of a conflict of interest on the project.

Pete Zeliff (mistakenly named "Paul" in the petition,) and Ray Cianfrini both spoke against tax breaks for the project and voted against setting a public hearing.

The conflict arises, according to Calamar, because Zeliff is building a single-family residential project on East Main Road, Batavia, and Cianfrini, also chair of the Genesee County Legislature, sometimes provides legal counsel to Zeliff.

"The agency's mission is to further the development of industries and create jobs and that housing should stand on its own," Calamar quotes Zeliff as saying.

Calamar claims to have been unaware of Zeliff's development interests at the time of the meeting.

To further emphasize the alleged conflict, Calamar quotes from a story published in The Batavian where Zeliff denies there is a conflict.

In that story, Zeliff noted that the two projects are completely different and do not overlap intended housing markets. Calamar is building apartments for seniors. Zeliff is building houses for families.

The petition states, "Zeliff also acknowledged that competition was an issue influencing his vote," and goes on to say that Zeliff voted against the project to protect his own Oakwood Estates development. 

The characterization of what Zeliff told The Batavian is misleading. Zeliff drew the distinction between his own project and said he didn't see Calamar's project as competitive with it, but noted that another senior housing project, Clinton Crossing, has proceeded without government aid and has a waiting list of residents trying to move in. He said the Calamar project, if it received assistance, would have an unfair, subsidized advantage over Clinton Crossing.

Zeliff does not have a financial interest in Clinton Crossing.

The suit also criticizes Zeliff and Cianfrini for misstating how many jobs the project would create. 

Rather than just two jobs, Calamar claims the project would add 4.5 full-time equivalent non-employee jobs (contractors) as well as dozens of construction jobs during the project development.

The rejection, the petition states, was taken "without any findings or reasoning," which Calamar claims is required if the board is going against either past practices or policy.

Calamar is also critical of GCEDC for having a vague Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP), and notes that the state's comptroller's office had the same criticism of GCEDC earlier this year.

"The Comptroller found that this failure to have formalized evaluation criteria resulted in an inconsistent approach by the Board and a lack of objective evaluation of proposed projects," the petition states.

Calamar claims to have received tax incentives for similar projects in Niagara County, Erie County, Stueben County and Auburn.

There is a great need in Genesee County for such a project, Calamar tells the court. According to the 2010 Census, 28.5 percent of the local population is 55 or older and 23.7 percent is 40 to 55.

The Genesee County Housing Focus Group's strategic plan states, according to Calamar, "senior apartment shortages have been noted as a major concern."

Calamar's project would be marketed to people 55 and older with an annual income of $35,000 to $45,000, and residents would only be those not receiving government housing assistance.

The 117,000-square-foot facility would offer one and two bedroom apartments with rents from $805 to $1,050 per month. There would be a full-time director on site, with events, educational seminars, meals, exercise instruction, home helpers, cleaning services, health system services and transportation offered.

The 33 acres of the proposed project is currently assessed at $166,400. The anticipated increase in assessed value is not stated, but the total value of the PILOT would be $854,580, with Calamar paying 20 percent of the taxes on the increase in assessed value in the first year. Calamar would pay an increasing share of taxes up to 100 percent by year 11.

Other proposed tax abatements are $454,744 on sales tax for materials and an exemption of the $120,000 mortgage tax on the purchase of the property.

The suit claims both Masse and GCEDC attorney Russ Gaenzle were shocked by the board's vote and exhibits include copies of their e-mails.

No hearing date has been set yet for the suit.

July 12, 2013 - 12:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Business, housing, Peter Zeliff, Oakwood Estates.

As soon as the early season corn that was planted this spring is picked in a couple of weeks, Peter Zeliff will be ready to begin construction of his planned 76-unit housing development off East Main Street Road and Seven Springs Road in the Town of Batavia.

Zeliff has acquired title to the property, according to his agent Tony Mancuso, and with one more final approval, expected Tuesday at the town's planning board meeting, the path will be clear for Zeliff to start grading the farmland.

Just as soon as that corn is harvested.

Thursday night, the county planning board recommended approval of the final approval of the 109 acre subdivision, which will be known as Oakwood Estates.

The project will include 44 townhomes (the maroon area in the photo above) and 33 single family homes.

It's the first major subdivision in Genesee County in a number of years and will be located near the fast-growing Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Mancuso said the first house should be ready for occupancy next spring.

July 3, 2013 - 4:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Business, housing, real estate.

The Batavian is partnering with Rochester-based Property Source to launch a whole new way for finding and selling homes in Genesee County on a site run by Property Source under the brand ZagPad.com.

The new site will replace our housing link in our main navigation on July 15.

For the first time we will be able to offer our readers access through The Batavian to MLS listings and offer local agents great tools to feature their businesses and and their listings.

The site also features sections for rentals, home improvement and senior living.

We will also be managing the Wyoming County real estate site for ZagPad/Property Source.

We think the new site is going to offer both people looking for housing and the real estate community a set of tools and features that haven't truly been available locally before.

As Genesee County's #1 online news source, the #1 Web site of any kind locally, we are excited to bring the county one centralized, go-to place for real estate.

One of the things we liked about ZagPad is the platform gives us the opportunity to deliver to our local readers and advertisers a Genesee County-focused real estate Web site -- one that is tied into a regional network of real estate listings and media partners (such as WHAM13 and WHEC in Rochester and the Bee Newspapers in Erie County). This gives local users and advertisers the best of both worlds -- a local focus with a regional reach.

Real estate agents and brokers who need more information should call Lisa Ace at (585) 250-4118.

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