Last night, Brenda Adams, executive director for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, and Georgene Gardner, from Habitat's site selection committee, came to the Common Council meeting to request land for their next project. They have their eye on "Diamond Park" in the 200 block of Columbia Street, part of which is owned by the City of Hudson, the other part by Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency (HCDPA).
There they plan to build three houses similar to the ones just being completed at 444 and 446 Columbia Street--houses that Adams referred to as "Federal style." This is a new housing model for Habitat, developed to create houses that were more compatible with the architecture of Hudson than the single-story houses that Habitat typically builds and those they built on Mill Street in Hudson.
Adams said Habitat was anxious to continue its partnership with Hudson, saying we "love building in Hudson," and Common Council President Don Moore seemed equally happy about entertaining their request until it was revealed that Habitat needed a commitment from the City of Hudson by the end of the month. It seems that Omni Housing Development is interested in the same land for building replacement units for Bliss Towers, and since Omni is not pursuing a "tax credit option," their deadline for identifying the properties they want isn't until summer. Although Moore seemed uncertain about how to deal with two requests for the same property, Mayor Scalera was clear in his preference for giving the lots to Habitat, suggesting that there might be people in Bliss Towers who would qualify for a Habitat house, thus reducing the number of replacement units needed.
If the lots go to Habitat for Humanity, the City must donate the land, but the houses will be sold to qualified home buyers who will pay property taxes. If the lots are used as part of the Bliss Towers replacement, Omni would purchase the land from the City but the buildings constructed on the lots would be tax exempt.
Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has so far built or rehabbed twelve houses in Columbia County, and, if I'm not mistaken, nine of them are in Hudson. Habitat is mandated to build where there is water and sewer, and in Columbia County that mandate limits the possibilities. Also, they need the land to be donated, and Mayor Scalera and the Common Council have been happy to turn over City-owned vacant lots to the organization. Adams mentioned two land donations in other parts of the county, neither of which worked out: one because of environmental issues; the other title issues.
The lots on Columbia Street may also have title issues. In 2003, the City of Hudson deeded the property to the Power and Restoration Church, which wanted to build a church building there. A condition of the gift was that construction had to begin within two years. If it didn't, the property would revert back to the City. City Attorney Jack Connor advised Adams to check with their title company to make certain that the lots could get title insurance because of the "reverter."