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Utica Common Council Approves Housing Plan

Council Passes Housing Project
Zach Lewis, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) – A proposal that puts affordable housing in the Sunset-Hobart-Noyes-Elm Street area has been approved by the Utica Common Council, and now it’s onto the state for its approval.

Originally, Housing Visions Consultants, Inc. proposed a plan to construct 14 building with 35 affordable housing units. However, after a public hearing in which a resident voiced interest in a vacant lot Housing Visions was going to acquire for the project, the new plan would see the city getting 13 buildings with 33 affordable housing units.

The vote on the plan was not unanimous. Council members Rocco Giruzzi, Lorraine Arcuri and Ed Bucciero voted against it.

Arcuri says she voted against the project because she doesn’t feel it’s the vision of the city. The housing plan will build two-family homes, and she says the city needs single-family dwellings.

“You know,” she said, “I think city residents spoke loud and clear in Cornhill not that long ago on the Hope 6 Project, which was a long project, and that was the direction. When I first saw this project, that was my first question, ‘Where are the single family homes?, Where’s the concentration of efforts?’”

Councilman Jerome McKinsey says those who voted against the project don’t even live in the Cornhill area where some of the buildings would be constructed.

“This project is going to do nothing but good,” he said. “Number one, it’s going to show the people that somebody has faith in central Utica. If we don’t build new two-family houses, we’re going to be stuck with the old, dying, hazardous two-family houses.”

He says with these new homes, people will bring more businesses to the city and it will inspire homeowners in the community and outside of the community to rebuild the inner-city of Utica.

Before construction can start, Ben Lockwood, director of development at Housing Visions, says they need to get approval for funding by the state through a competitive judging process. $7.26 million dollars in Low Income Housing Tax Credits need to be approved before building begins.

A tax agreement has also passed between Housing Visions and the city. The agreement keeps the current tax assessments while redevelopment company build for 20 years, with a two-percent annual increase. And, after that 20 years, they will pay what the taxes are under the assessment of the new structures.

Lockwood says even after the lose of a vacant lot to build on, the  tax agreement would still see the city getting around $562,000 after the 20 years is up.

If everything gets approved by the state, Lockwood says construction of the buildings would start in late fall of 2011.

The housing project is called Genesee Crossing.

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