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Hochul announces completion of $19 million affordable housing development in east Buffalo


Wed, May 29th 2024 07:10 pm

Olympic Avenue Apartments transformed vacant school into affordable homes; includes energy-efficient features; free broadband internet

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the completion of rehabilitation work at east Buffalo's former Public School 78, transforming the vacant building into 46 affordable apartments and space for community programs and services. All of the homes in the $19 million Olympic Avenue Apartments development will be available to low-income households, with eight of the units set aside for disabled individuals who will have access to on-site support services. Hochul broke ground on the project in 2022.

“This project exemplifies New York’s creativity in transforming underutilized properties into much-needed homes,” Hochul said. “Our ongoing investments in east Buffalo are improving affordability, strengthening our communities and increasing housing opportunities for all.”

In the past five years, New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) has created or preserved 7,500 affordable homes in Buffalo. Olympic Avenue Apartments continues this effort and is part of Hochul's $25 billion housing plan to create or preserve 100,000 affordable homes across New York, including 10,000 with support services for vulnerable populations, plus the electrification of an additional 50,000 homes.

Olympic Avenue Apartments complements the state’s ongoing commitment to addressing the vital needs of the east Buffalo community following the Tops shooting on May 14, 2022.

The project includes 43 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments, with eight of those units specially constructed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities. All apartments are affordable to households earning at or below 60% of the area median income.

The rehabilitation features energy-efficient upgrades such as a green roof, new electrical systems, fuel-efficient heating and cooling, an updated stormwater system, and new windows. Each apartment was equipped with all Energy Star or equivalent appliances, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving plumbing fixtures.

The project also includes quality-of-life improvements that benefit the whole community and make the surrounding area more inviting, including new sidewalks, lighting, a playground and native landscaping and a community garden. The project's historic preservation initiatives included restoration of brick and stone masonry; repair of historic windows, the decorative metal railing, and interior plasterwork; and removal of suspended ceilings to reveal their historic height. The development will provide free internet, helping to bridge the digital divide among low-income communities.

Built in 1927, PS 78 is listed on both the state and national registers of historic places, and most recently housed a Montessori School. As part of this development, the school's auditorium was transformed into a community center where local nonprofits will provide services and programs targeted to low-income residents and community members.

The project is supported by HCR’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program that will generate $9.6 million in equity, as well as a $2.4 million investment from HCR’s Housing Trust Fund. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has facilitated the use of federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits that are estimated to provide $2.75 million in equity. U.S. Housing and Urban Development invested $750,000 from its federal Housing Trust Fund, Empire State Development awarded $500,000 from the Better Buffalo Fund, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) provided $46,000 through the Low-rise New Construction Program in support.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Tackling the housing crisis takes creative solutions, and this investment shows that housing can be developed in both traditional and non-traditional spaces. PS 78 was a cornerstone for the neighboring community and now it will continue to benefit the community for years to come by offering more than 40 families and individuals a modern, secure place to live.”

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “The Olympic Avenue Apartments project shows how New York's aging, and sometimes vacant, buildings can be redeveloped into modern, comfortable and affordable housing. NYSERDA is proud to support projects that incorporate energy-efficient heating and cooling and energy-saving appliances to provide healthier living spaces for underserved New Yorkers.”

State Parks Commissioner Pro Tempore Randy Simons said, “This historic school was part of an initiative in the City of Buffalo over 100 years ago to address the needs of the community. Today, it has been transformed through this collaborative rehabilitation project that offers dignified, affordable housing for residents; looks to the future with sustainability goals; and preserves the craftsmanship of this historic neighborhood asset. We’re proud to partner on projects like this and work with developers to utilize resources like the historic rehabilitation tax credit program to make these impactful projects possible here in Buffalo and throughout the state.”

Andrew Sewnauth, CEO of CDS Life Transitions and executive director of CDS Monarch said, “CDS Monarch saw that there was a great need in the Buffalo community for affordable multifamily and supportive housing and we set out to meet that need. Our response can be found here in Olympic Avenue Apartments, a modern, affordable, Wi-Fi-enabled, and safe housing development that promotes a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use community close to public transportation. We are grateful to state and local government officials for their support, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve more members of the Buffalo community and across the state.”

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