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HHA: Bliss Towers will stay affordable housing

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    A side view of one of the buildings proposed for the corner of North Second and State streets.
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    The Hudson Housing Authority to rehabilitate the 117-unit Bliss Towers, 41 N. Second St., as part of a project presented the Hudson Planning Board for site plan review.
January 10, 2019 10:05 pm Updated: January 11, 2019 11:26 am

 

HUDSON — The Hudson Housing Authority on Wednesday addressed misinformation and concerns from the community surrounding the development of the proposed affordable housing project at the corner of North Second and State streets.

The Board of Commissioners of the Hudson Housing Authority and its attorneys took questions from about six residents about the impacts of the project on residents, financing and its scale. Between 10 and 15 people attended the meeting.

The project proposed by the Hudson Housing Authority and its co-developer Property Resources Corporation, of White Plains, will include renovating 117 units at Bliss Towers, 41 N. Second St., and construction of two new buildings — one with 33 units for seniors and one with 43 units for multi-families and mixed-use — at the corner of State and North Second streets. The project’s application is before the city Planning Board.

Low-Rise development

At the meeting Wednesday, Past Common Council President Don Moore questioned the impacts of the scale of the project at 150 units.

Hudson Housing Authority board members explained the project under review by the Hudson Planning Board is for the 76 units at the corner of North Second and State streets. But as Common Council President Thomas DePietro pointed out, earlier plans included drawings of two, 40-unit buildings in place of the 15-unit low rise that sits west of Bliss Towers.

Dan Hubbell, a project attorney, said that a potential low rise project is not being included in the proposal, but the Hudson Housing authority had to disclose possible future development for purposes of planning for traffic and parking to the Hudson Planning Board.

“There is no plan to do anything on the west end of this lot,” Hubbell said. “There is no plan for that at all. However, state environmental review purposes, in order for the planning board to assess the environmental impacts, we need to disclose this may be a possibility, but it is speculative. There is no plan. There is nothing in the works.”

In the event that the Hudson Housing Authority and PRC decide to move forward with a plan to develop the low rise buildings, that development would requiring reopening of the site plan and a second environmental review, Hubbell said.

Agreement with PRC

The Hudson Housing Authority is in the process of entering into its 15-year agreement for the mixed-finance project across the street from Bliss Towers with PRC. At year 14, the housing authority has the option to buy and take sole control of the property, Hudson Housing Authority Executive Director Tim Mattice said.

The land for the project will remain under the ownership of the HHA, and the housing authority will make all decisions regarding the property, Mattice said.

“It will always be affordable housing,” Mattice said. “I encourage everyone here if there is any doubt about that please call the HUD [U.S. Housing and Urban Development] regional office. They a will explain it.”

Negotiations are continuing and PRC has not been officially selected as the housing authority’s partner on the project.

Financing for the project would include a mix of tax credits, bond financing, grants and subsidies, Hubbell said.

“We don’t have a budget for a staff to oversee everything that needs to be overseen,” Hudson Housing Authority Commissioners President Alan Weaver said. “That is why we need a partner that can handle this.”

Future of Bliss Towers

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran, who was in the audience, asked the board about the future of housing at Bliss Towers with the conversion of the property into Section 8 housing.

“This BlissTowers high rise will always be maintained as public housing,” Mattice said. “It will not be sold or demolished or converted to market-rate housing.

 

The federal government has specifically put language and mechanisms into the code of federal regulations that will prevent that.”

The federal government is reviewing the application from the Hudson Housing Authority for the Rental Assistance Demonstration conversion, which was submitted Oct. 31. The conversion would mean Bliss Towers residents would now be tenants under Section 8 housing guidelines, with those current residents grandfathered into the program.

The Hudson Housing Authority is entering in, through the RAD conversion, a 20-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will ensure that public housing will remain public. After 20 years, Mattice said, there is an automatic renewal, that is mandatory, which will extend it another 20 years. Subsequent renewals will continue every 20 years in perpetuity, Mattice said.

Rental Assistance Demonstration

The federal government does not have the money to make the necessary improvements to public housing, and there is $50 billion-plus backlog of capital improvement projects that need to be completed across the country, Mattice said.

“They are looking to the private sector to help bail out public housing,” Mattice said.

Rental Assistance Demonstration is a stopgap measure to prevent any further loss to public housing units which are depleting at a rate of 50,000 a year, Mattice said.

There is no other program other than RAD in place to deal with the crisis, Mattice said.

“We are going through a RAD conversion because that is what the federal government wants public housing to do,” Weaver said. “We have no other choice, unless the city of Hudson wants to step in and underwrite the work we’ve done here which this building is $10 million. RAD Is very integral to what we do.”

Although the RAD program has only been in existence for a few years, HUD Secretary Ben Carson is reaching out to all housing authorities across the U.S. to help them transition to RAD programs, Mattice said.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.