Yesterday, I saw a social media post from the Mayor which I found upsetting for a couple of reasons. Here is the content (unedited):
"Hudson politics drives me crazy. People say they want affordable housing. Then when I propose a project that would be real affordable housing for over 70 units. Some of the council have reservations or are unsure. A project that would bring thousands of dollars into the city. Ask yourself do your elected officials really want affordable housing if they keep saying let's wait or not this developer but offer no alternatives? If things stay the same in Hudson it won't be because I didn't try. "I said what I said." #AHOD"
Frankly, I have been immensely disappointed by the state of politics in Hudson as of late myself. The excitement I felt about the candidates who were elected being able to bring transformational change to the city has all but evaporated as I see only an increase in political posturing which impedes policy implementation. This post seemed to me the latest example of this. In addition, I was also upset by this post because it oversimplified a complex issue. I posted a reply to the Mayor on his thread, which he immediately deleted. The content of my reply was a follows (also unedited):
"Jumping on here to offer some thoughts:) I don't know the details of the plan, but if it involves tax breaks to the developers, that does cost the city money. Money that will have to be made up by increased property taxes on homeowners and landlords (who will just pass that cost on to the tenants). Also, how is affordable defined? If it's 70% or more of the AMI, then it's not really affordable to anyone who is not upper-middle class, and therefore does nothing to solve the housing crisis in Hudson. Lastly, I must ask, in the context of this conversation, how can you justify your veto of the vacancy rate study which would have been the first step towards stabilized rents for an estimated 300 units and provided the strongest tenant protections to those residing there that are available in the state, and arguably the country? Couldn't help myself--you know housing is all I care about:). Thanks for indulging me in the convo folks:)"
I'm mostly disappointed that my reply was deleted because, if a discourse on a topic is going to be initiated in a public capacity such as social media, one would hope it would allow for all opinions. Instead, it seems there is no interest for a substantive conversation of that sort.Garrard's letter concludes:
I have gotten the details since I posted my reply. If I'm correct, the parameters are that the developer would be given 40 years of 95% tax abatement on the property. In addition, the building would include 1/3 of units which could be priced up to 130% of AMI, 1/3 of units which could be priced up to 80% of AMI, and 1/3 which I do believe fall within the affordability metric.
My questions are--are these parameters non-negotiable? 40 years is a staggering length of time for that type of incentive, and the post-development value of the building will place a huge tax burden on those who are left paying taxes in the city. In addition, could the number of units which are required to fall below 80% of AMI be increased? Could there be a requirement that the affordable units go to community members and not out of towners? (ie college students, etc). I think these are all topics that could be fleshed out in a setting such as a housing committee, of which you have one:) If it's a good project, why the need to ram it through instead of making it the best it can be?The answer to Garrard's question about "the need to ram it through" involves both Mayor Kamal Johnson's desire to deliver new affordable housing and the desire of the Galvan Foundation to apply for state funding in the spring round--a round that has not yet been announced although we are halfway into spring. Although the Council did not vote on the resolution authorizing the PILOT agreement on Tuesday, opting instead to hold a special meeting on Monday, May 4, to discuss the matter further, Council president Tom DePietro did say that he intended to call for a vote at that meeting.
At Tuesday's Council meeting, some of the aldermen expressed concerns similar to Garrard's about the project, although some seemed more concerned about the affordability of the apartments than they were about the tax burden for other property owners. In reverse alphabetical order, DePietro invited questions and comments from the aldermen.
After saying she was "really excited about the project" and acknowledging that it had been "carefully formulated to respond very directly" to the Strategic Housing Action Plan, Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) questioned if, in its income mix, the project wasn't being "too literal." The project being proposed spans annual household incomes from $20,000 to $92,000 in a 77-unit building. She asked if there was a way to "tweak the numbers," indicating that she would be happier if there were more "work force rate apartments." She also questioned the change of sites, saying she thought the original site was "amazing."
Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) said he originally wanted to table the resolution to get more details but after Dan Kent's presentation he thought otherwise. He then asked how the building would "add to the tax base." Kent told him the commercial space in the building would generate $16,000 in tax revenue. Then, prompted by Mayor Kamal Johnson, Walker asked about assessments, although what exactly he wanted to know was not entirely clear.
Jane Trombley (First Ward) asked about Section 8 vouchers. Kent said there would be eight project-based Section 8 vouchers. He also spoke about Housing Choice vouchers.
John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) observed that the current situation "doesn't allow a very public and transparent way to go about this." He admitted to having a "healthy skepticism" about the project and said he wanted "to make certain it's the best possible project." He questioned if $77,000 was "the most it can be" and observed, "The other taxpayers are going to make up for this." Kent maintained that $77,000 was "the maximum amount possible given we are collecting such low rents." (According to Kent's PowerPoint presentation, the rents for 30 percent of the apartments will range from $1,020 to $1,750 a month.) Rosenthal asked if the AMI (area median income) was for Hudson or for Columbia County. (In 2018, the AMI for Hudson was $35,439, while the AMI for Columbia County was $61,093.) Kent indicated that the AMI used by HUD is the one for the county, but to compensate for that, they "increased the number of lowest tier units." Rosenthal then told Kent that there was "a lot of fear and misunderstanding about what your role in the community is." At this point, DePietro interrupted him to say that the next round of funding from NYS Homes and Community Renewal would be announced very soon, and he wanted the Council to demonstrate its support.
Shershah Mizan (Third Ward) asked about the City's share of the $77,000. He was told by Johnson that it was about $22,000. Mizan then suggested that the PILOT should be for a shorter period of time than forty years.
Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) asked where Galvan would be moving the tenants currently living in the three houses that are to be demolished and indicated that he would be "more inclined to support the project if it stayed at 708 State Street." When Merante asked what the main motivation for switching sites was, Kent cited "more streamlined development for state funding" as the reason but indicated that they were "continuing to develop plans for 708 State." Merante asked several questions relating to the cost to the city of the project. DePietro told him his concerns were the purview of the Planning Board, which will have to grant site plan approval, but one interesting bit of information did emerge. There are no plans for providing offstreet parking. The tenants of the seventy-seven apartments will have to park their cars on the street. (It should be noted that there are no plans for parking included in site plan that was approved for the brewery going into the old Hudson Upper Depot across the street, so tenants will be vying for parking spaces with patrons of the brewery.)
Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) said all her questions had been answered, but she wanted the Council to take a "deeper dive" into what was being proposed.
Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) also wanted the Council to "dig deeper." She said she had questions for the city treasurer and suggested that the project should "start out with" a 20-year PILOT. Garriga also asked if there was a way for the City of Hudson to get a bigger share of the $77,000 but was told by attorney Christine Chale that was not possible. Garriga wanted to know what the apartments would look like. Kent said they were still working on apartment design but told her there would be a community room, a fitness room, an outdoor area with raised beds for community gardening, a bike room, a lobby with a seating area, and a laundry room. He said there would be a building porter and an onsite caretaker.
At some point, DePietro reported that Darren Scott, Upstate East Director of Development at New York State Homes and Community Renewal, said Galvan "has been great to work with" and suggested that Hudson was lucky to have them. DePietro said that HCR would oversee construction and monitor the project.
Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward) asked why the project was "so rushed"? Kent said it didn't feel rushed. He called it a "long, deliberative process" designed to be "responsive to the Strategic Housing Action Plan." Sarowar then asked what would happen if the project did not get state funding. Kent responded, "This project is not going to happen without significant support from the state." Trombley then asked, "There is not a Plan B?" Johnson answered her. "Plan B is to look for other projects."
A special meeting of the Council to discuss the project will take place on Monday, May 4, at 7:00 p.m.
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