HUDSON — The Hudson Housing Authority is learning from a former failed development and looking forward with their ears open to the public.
The board will be proposing development project ideas and gathering public feedback at their Jan. 13 meeting, Hudson Housing Authority Commissioner Rebecca Borrer said.
The Board of Commissioners wants to learn quickly from the mistakes of the past and include public input early in their plans, she said. The board’s initiative to develop more housing is in an exploratory phase.
Involving the public is important to Borrer, including keeping the chat function open during Hudson Housing Authority meetings on Zoom, she said. Most Hudson meetings on the video conferencing tool have the chat function disabled.
One of the development options is revisiting the State Street land owned by the Housing Authority, where a previous plan to develop fell through due to the soil not being able to sustain the size of the project and public criticism.
The project, cited in the 2018 Strategic Action Housing Plan, had $800,000 allocated from the $10 million 2017 Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) state grant.
Both the Strategic Action Housing Plan and the DRI award cited plans for the development of 40 units for a mixed-use, mixed-income rental housing project on the site. Target residents would have incomes ranging from 30% to 120% of the area’s median income.
The estimated project cost was $6,500,000, which would be funded with the allocated DRI money, developer investment, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, federal tax credits and the Community Development Block Grant program, according to the DRI proposal.
But the Hudson Housing Authority Board of Commissioners took the plan to new heights, planning a project costing upwards of $50 million to create two mixed-income four-story buildings containing over 70 units, according to a Register-Star report dated Nov. 21, 2018. Construction was predicted to begin in July 2019 and take two years to complete.
The project also planned to renovate Bliss Towers vacant apartments, according to a Register-Star report dated Jan. 25, 2019.
“Even though the DRI money went towards a relatively modest project, the authority came back with a massive project that took the public by surprise and was not well received,” Common Council President Thomas DePietro said Tuesday.
The board designed a larger project than initially planned because of cost effectiveness and housing demand, former Hudson Housing Authority Chairman Alan Weaver said Wednesday. The cost per unit lowers when more units are constructed.
Weaver left the board in Oct. 2019, he said. He currently works as a real-estate broker.
“The city of Hudson needs housing, at all price points,” he said. “I recently had one apartment for rent that was a two-bedroom for $1,000. I got 40 inquiries on that one apartment. There is nothing available. When you get 40 inquiries on one apartment, that tells you there is a need out there that’s not being filled.”
The housing authority did not use DRI or city funds for the proposed project, Weaver said Wednesday. The DRI money was designated for the preparation of the site, but the project did not get that far.
All the money put into the project was from the developer and project partner, Property Resource Corporation, and their affiliate, Duvernay and Brooks, Weaver said.
Construction companies developing subsidized housing are typically financed in part from the state and in part from low-income housing tax credits, Weaver said. The Hudson Housing Authority is not funded by the city, but rather has a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) arrangement. No money from the Hudson Housing Authority was invested in the project, Director Timothy Mattice confirmed Wednesday.
The project proposal was withdrawn from the Planning Board in early February 2019, according to a Register-Star report dated Feb. 13, 2019. Former Mayor Rick Rector said Jan. 7 the plan was a “complete contradiction” to the city’s Strategic Housing Action Plan.
“The developer did all the preliminary work for the proposal that we put together, the soil testing and everything up to a point until we figured out the soil couldn’t support what we had proposed,” Weaver said.
Finding out the project couldn’t be sustained by the land and the community reaction to the proposal led to it being scrapped, Weaver said.
“It was basically back to the drawing board,” he said.
The project was put on hold after the application was withdrawn, Mattice said Wednesday.
The housing authority still wanted to develop housing in Hudson after withdrawing the proposal, but nothing was in the works for a new site proposal when Weaver left the board in October 2019, Weaver said.
The land should be surveyed before future plans are pursued, Borrer said.
“Basically we’re learning from the past,” she said. “We’re moving forward to integrate the lessons that we’ve learned, making sure the public is involved, making sure we survey exactly what we have before building. You need to know the state of the land and all that stuff before you build on it.”
The Hudson Housing Authority is one of various agencies that are part of affordable housing development plans in Hudson, and while they want to collaborate with other groups, they want to be specific in their goals, such as creating more four- to five-bedroom family units or providing housing to the elderly, Borrer said.
“The affordable housing crisis has gotten to the point it’s not just one building, we’ve lost a lot of residents — we’ve lost a lot of Hudsonians,” Borrer said. “It’s a project. We want to collaborate with the city; we want to collaborate with other agencies because we want to make sure our citizens are served.”
She hopes the Board of Commissioners, which currently hosts monthly meetings, starts to meet more often, perhaps weekly.
“The goal is to do something that’s going to be very lasting over time and to do it quick,” Borrer said.
The 2018 Strategic Action Housing Plan seemed to be a push for agencies such as the Hudson Housing Authority, Hudson Development Corporation, Hudson Community and Development and Planning Agency and the mayor’s office to work together, but needs to be updated, Borrer said.
The same needs exist today as in 2018, but there are different people in office, she said. Because of timing with grant applications, agencies need to work together to stagger different projects.
The city plans to hire Pattern for Progress, a Hudson Valley not-for-profit research and planning organization, to consult on affordable housing development.
Out of the $30,000 required for the consulting, $10,000 has been secured, according to Mayoral Aide Michael Chameides. The remaining money is anticipated from external sources.