Housing Resources of Columbia County North Fifth Street Revitalization
|Category: ||Community Impact, Housing Rehabilitation
|Keywords: ||Neighborhood Revitalization, Rehabilitation
|Information About Organization:|
|Name: ||Housing Resources of Columbia County
|Address: ||605 State Street
| ||Hudson, New York 12534
|Contact: ||Kevin O’Neill, Executive Director
|Phone: ||(518) 822-0707
|Fax: ||(518) 822-0367
Housing Resources of Columbia County (HRCC) has launched a major revitalization project on North Fifth Street in Hudson, New York. The project includes several buildings and houses on one block of Fifth Street.
Hudson, New York, is a small, industrial city on the Hudson River, with a population of 8,800. HRCC opened in 1984 to provide housing options for the city. The organization expanded in 1994 to serve the entire county, and now serves approximately 60,000 residents. HRCC conducts rehabilitation, purchase assistance, real-estate development for local nonprofits, pre- and postpurchase counseling and manages 84 rental units.
A great deal of Hudson’s housing stock is old, neglected and in need of major rehabilitation. One block in particular, a block from HRCC’s office, was plagued with rundown housing, and had become a magnet for criminal activity. HRCC has been chipping away at rehabbing properties in this area, but realized that the only real solution was to buy a majority of the buildings on the block and rehabilitation each. HRCC wanted to ease the growing instances of crime and, at the same time, create affordable and suitable housing for first-time homebuyers.
The block on North Fifth Street is unique. Though the previous owner had not properly cared for the properties, and crime was an issue, the properties still had good potential. The buildings are only a block away from thriving antique and other novelty shops, plus the surrounding neighborhoods are very stable and well-kept. The block, in essence, seemed to be a pocket of blight. Once the project is completed, the rehabilitated houses will be easy to market, because the surrounding areas are so nice.
1. Property Acquisition. Acquiring the properties was a struggle. But after many discussions and negotiations, the owner finally agreed. HRCC bought nine buildings on the block and an additional one off the block. Included were two bars on North Fifth Street. HRCC reached verbal agreement with the landlord in fall 1997, and secured the contract in October 1998.
2. Neighborhood Meeting. Once the contract was formed with the primary landlord, HRCC held a community meeting to inform area residents of the project’s goals and agenda. HRCC outlined the project and received much support from residents. Still, several were critical, and suggested that HRCC sell the buildings to private investors who would completely rehabilitation them. HRCC has held several “question-and-answer” meetings with residents, and plans to continue communicating with the community as the project unfolds.
3. Cost and Funding. The total acquisition price was $308,000. This was more than had been anticipated, but a local lender, which held the mortgages on most of the properties, helped by providing $200,000 at 0% interest. The city of Hudson also provided $50,000 at 0%. Other funds for purchase and rehabilitation are coming from NeighborWorks America, Historic Tax Credit, New York State Clean Air-Clean Water, Hudson River Valley Greenway, New York State Homeless Housing Assistance program, HOME, and New York State Affordable Housing Corporation. The total received for rehabbing the buildings was $1,760,000.
4. Rehabilitation Strategy. HRCC created a rehabilitation plan to produce as many home-ownership opportunities as possible. While HRCC was acquiring the buildings, Twin County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (Twin County ASAS) approached HRCC with requests for both office space and apartments for participants in its programs. The apartments were for program graduates ready for independent living, but who still needed out-patient care. HRCC decided to convert a row of six town houses for Twin County ASAS. Three town houses (to include six apartments) were made into supportive apartments; three were converted into Twin Count ASAS office space.
5. Volunteers. Participants in the Twin County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services program are required to complete community-service projects. HRCC developed an arrangement that allows Twin County ASAS participants to earn volunteer credits at HRCC rehabilitation sites, doing demolition and painting.
- HRCC purchased six town houses and four traditional houses to rehabilitate and sell to either potential homeowners or Twin County ASAS.
- Demolition is currently taking place at each site by HRCC rehabilitation staff and volunteers. Construction is scheduled to start in April 2000.
- Aside from the revitalization effort, one family bought a house on the same block with HRCC’s assistance. HRCC did not own the house, but provided the financing and construction management for the first-time buyers.
- Once the buildings were purchased, HRCC needed to board them up until rehabilitation funding was secured. To avoid creating an eyesore, HRCC recruited high school students and neighborhood residents to paint murals on the plywood. The murals have kept the buildings looking clean and attractive. Neighborhood residents truly enjoy the murals, and the community is hoping to preserve the paintings as construction begins.
- HRCC’s rehabilitation efforts have inspired business owners to buy the remaining buildings on the block for commercial space. Concurrently, residential space is being created above these new businesses.
- Identifying the need for the project and then connecting Twin County ASAS to the plan helped HRCC leverage the project. Funding sources have been very supportive because of the project’s demonstrable impact.
- The actual purchase of the properties was the most troublesome part. Acquisition can be difficult and competitive, and it helps if the organization anticipates that this can be a lengthy and complicated process. Be patient!
- Timelines and project outlines are very important. The buildings were bought well before the funding was in place for rehabilitation. This meant that HRCC needed extra time to secure rehabilitation funding. HRCC therefore requested that the purchase loans include two years with a zero percent interest rate.
- Taking on a project of this magnitude is primarily a matter of finding funds and fitting them together. This can be a challenge. Difficulties arise because guidelines and requirements for each funding source are different, and because some processes are more complicated than others. It is important to be well-informed about each funding source, and to be patient when creating a financial plan that satisfies each requirement.
- Such a project needs to be a priority, and may need to take precedence over others. And, while it needs to make sense for the organization, it also needs support from both neighborhood residents and the city.
- Make sure the project is doable. Hire an architect to make sure the buildings are salvageable. Be sure rehabilitation staff can handle the added work. See that your organization has the financial capabilities to complete the project, and the staff time to locate funding.
Agency interview with: Kevin O’Neill