CARS HOMES JOBS

Schoharie housing project gets $4M boost

Birches seen as key to post-Irene revival

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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— The village of Schoharie will soon see scores of new residents thanks to nearly $4 million in tax credits and low-interest government loans allotted to a Main Street housing development.

Birchez Associates, a Kingston-based developer, will receive the funds through New York State Homes and Community Renewal to build 72 units of low- and moderate-income senior housing in the village, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

Steve Aaron of Birchez Associates was too busy to comment extensively Wednesday, but said the combined $2.3 million in low-interest loans from the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund Program and $1.6 million in state and federal tax credits make up just a portion of his development costs.

According to plans submitted to the Schoharie County Planning Commission early this year, Birchez Associates is looking to build two cottage-style buildings with eight units and a main two-story building with 56 units.

The development, called The Birches, will house people 62 and older, with 15 percent of the housing space reserved for the frail elderly as a nursing home alternative.

The Birches award was just one of many announced Wednesday. In all, $91 million will go toward shovel-ready housing projects across the state. The combination of low-interest loans and tax credits will help build and preserve 2,060 units of affordable housing.

“We are announcing awards to … developments that will create jobs while building and preserving affordable housing for our residents,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These funds will leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in private resources, creating valuable partnerships as we work to rebuild communities and create jobs in all corners of the state.”

The Birches project has been in the works in Schoharie for quite some time, with land purchases contingent on government assistance, according to village Planning Board Chairwoman Dusty Putnam. Now that the money is on its way, she said the project will help the village immensely.

“I hate to get my hopes up about these things,” she said, “but it would be such a positive statement for the village.”

Life hasn’t been the same in Schoharie since Tropical Storm Irene. Putnam’s own home had to be bulldozed after floodwaters reached five feet up the walls.

Flood damage has stunted the village ever since — new housing for seniors might be the shot of vitality the village needs.

But not all the village residents are as happy as Putnam. Arlene Vrooman lives in a house to the south of The Birches’ future location and says the development will hurt the village more than it might help.

“The water rises here,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be a flood. It could just be a spring rain.”

Since the area is demonstrably flood-prone, The Birches will be built on a foundation elevated four feet. Vrooman worries the tall foundation will serve as a sort of dam, creating a lake between several residences, including her own, and the road during flood season.

She also said the village’s flood-damaged sewer and water system won’t be able to handle added stress from at least 72 seniors.

“Companies come in here with all sorts of grants and things, and people get excited,” she said. “People don’t realize these companies want so many special deals we won’t benefit.”

For Putnam though, the development is a positive for both the village and area seniors. After Irene, she moved into a remodeled barn, but not everyone landed so lightly on their feet.

Because of the damage to area housing stock, and because the area has an older population, The Birches housing units are in high demand. Added traffic along Main Street would also be good for business.

“If you have enough warm bodies, certain things become necessary,” Putnam said. “We might even get our grocery store back.”

It’s not clear when construction will begin.

Also on Cuomo’s list of awards, Winn Development Co. is set to receive $4.3 million to convert the vacant Livingston Middle School in Albany into 103 units of housing for the elderly, and Pathstone Housing Action will get nearly $2 million to build 64 housing units in Moreau.

In an earlier round of funding awards, the Schenectady YMCA’s housing program received $11 million as part of a project to move from State Street to Broadway.

 
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