Long-vacant public school to become 65 affordable & supportive homes for veterans, families
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced construction is underway on School 75 Apartments, a $29 million development on Buffalo's East Side that will provide 47 affordable homes in a repurposed former public school and an additional 18 new single-family homes. Thirty-three of the apartments will be reserved for homeless veterans and military service-disabled individuals.
"Our commitment to fighting homelessness and housing insecurity continues with this latest development that breathes new life into a historic Buffalo school," Hochul said. "Public School 75 was once a place where generations of children were able to learn and get their start toward a bright future. Our investment will once again allow this location to be the centerpiece of a vibrant neighborhood where families have the chance to grow, and our veterans receive the support they deserve."
All 65 homes will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income. Twenty households will receive on-site supportive services and rental subsidies funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and administered by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. An additional 13 households will receive U.S. Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care rental subsidies through Erie County. The development's 33 supportive apartments will be reserved for veterans.
Public School 75 held its last classes in 1979 and, after several uses since, the building remained vacant for more than 20 years. Alterations to the three-story brick exterior will carefully preserve the historic architectural elements. All windows will be replaced with historic aluminum windows and four entry doors will be replaced to match the look of the originals.
The gymnasium and classrooms will be reconfigured into 47 apartments, while the front of the auditorium will be used as the main entrance and community room. The rear of the auditorium, including the former balcony, will be used to house the new corporate offices for the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition, the supportive service provider.
The complex also involves the new construction of 18 single-family homes on vacant parcels surrounding the former school throughout the William-Emslie neighborhood.
The co-developers are the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition and Norstar Development USA L.P.
State financing for the development is through New York State Homes and Community Renewal's allocation of Federal and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate about $15.8 million in equity, $4.1 million through the Supportive Housing Opportunity Program, and $580,000 through the Community Investment Fund. The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded Federal and State Historic Tax Credits, which will generate more than $6.7 million in equity, and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority will provide $72,000 through its low-rise new construction program. The City of Buffalo is providing $850,000 through the HOME program.
HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "The pandemic laid bare the need for affordable and supportive housing, especially for New Yorkers already struggling with housing insecurity. Through our partnership with the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition and Norstar Development, this $29 million development expands housing opportunities on Buffalo's East Side for families and veterans and adds new vitality to a long-vacant but beautiful historic school building. By transforming underutilized spaces into affordable housing, we can better serve our urban communities."
School 75 Apartments are part of the state's $20 billion, five-year housing plan to make housing accessible and to combat homelessness by building or preserving more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 homes with supportive services. Since 2011, New York State Homes and Community Renewal has invested more than $307 million in Buffalo, which has created or preserved more than 3,200 affordable homes.
State Parks Erik Kulleseid said, "Originally constructed in 1925, the former Buffalo Public School 75 project is another great example of how historic preservation is breathing new life to Buffalo's East Side. The Historic Tax Credit program is driving investments in historic structures, which helps lift local economies, create jobs, and promotes sustainable building practices in our state's cities and towns."
Senior Project Manager of Norstar Development USA Daniel Bellgraph said, "Norstar is honored to have partnered with the WNY Veterans' Housing Coalition Inc., our funding partners and all team members from New York state and locally who worked to make this project a reality. The School 75 project will have a transformative impact and provide much-needed affordable housing in the community – particularly for those veterans who bravely served our country."
Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition President and CEO Gigi Grizanti said, "It has been 25 years since we dropped a shovel in the ground to add to our affordable housing efforts for our veterans in need. After many years of planning, we are excited for the opportunity to be able to transform this neighborhood and replace an empty school and vacant properties into a thriving building and add these beautiful homes for our veterans and their families. These efforts would be possible with the confidence from our many funders and Norstar, our development partner. We are looking forward to becoming part of this growing community."
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "NYSERDA is pleased to provide support for this project, which will help ensure that Buffalo-area low-income residents and veterans have access to safe, healthy and comfortable housing with energy-efficient features that provide enhanced performance and energy bill savings. Maintaining the historic character of existing buildings while equipping them with modern amenities that use the latest clean energy technology to provide affordable housing is a win-win in the state's efforts to ensure all New Yorkers benefit from the transition to economywide neutrality outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act."