Tuesday, August 11, 2020

An Expert Outside Opinion

When members of the Common Council express misgivings about the building proposed by the Galvan Foundation, advocates for the project are quick to question their commitment to affordable housing, indeed their commitment to the people of Hudson. But what happens when Rebecca Garrard, statewide organizer for housing justice with Citizen Action of New York, which defines its mission as "Fighting for Social, Racial, Economic and Environmental Justice for All," someone who has spent a fair amount of time in Hudson advocating for the Statewide Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, leading forums on fair housing, and advising the Council on adopting rent stabilization in Hudson, speaks out against the proposal? 

Photo: Sanctuary for Independent Media
Back in April, when Garrard first communicated with the Council about the project, some aldermen seemed to share her concerns. Since then, several aldermen appear to be satisfied with the outcomes of their negotiations with Dan Kent, vice president for initiatives for Galvan: eliminating studio apartments in favor of more three-bedroom apartments, increasing the amount of the PILOT to $100,000 in the first year, reducing the duration of the PILOT from forty to thirty years, being willing to enter into another PILOT agreement when the first one is up instead of taking the building off the tax rolls. Garrard's concerns about the project, however, persist. Yesterday, she send an email to the Common Council, the essence of which is quoted below:
My position remains what it has been as this process has been discussed. I do not believe the requirements of the project justify the tax abatements provided to the developer. While the figures for this project as it is detailed right now set rents at rates which would make the average for the building 67% AMI [area median income], it is my understanding that there has been no modification to the contract which would guarantee this average (or even close to this average) during any point of the PILOT. Instead, the project allows for units to adhere to the upper limits of a very wide range of AMI at any point. Specifically, 1/3 could be up to 60%, 1/3 could be up to 80%, and 1/3 could be up to 130%. If rents were set at the higher end of the limits, then the building average would be 90% AMI--a vastly different scenario than the one hypothetically spelled out in their proposal.
In my experience, relying on the good faith of any developer to maintain affordability inevitably ends in the goals of a project not being met. This is an easily remedied situation--it could be written into the agreement that as rents are adjusted, the building wide AMI average must be maintained. Without this protective measure, the City of Hudson risks issuing a monumentally long tax abatement without any assurance that the housing developed as a result of it would be truly affordable. This is especially crucial because we know that the tax burden will have to be distributed across the base of owners in Hudson who do not have abatements. Small homeowners must be protected, and more importantly, we must ensure that the other tenants in Hudson do not see their rents rise as the result of increased property taxes which are paid for by rent increases set by landlords.
I urge all of you to continue to be thoughtful in your debate around this process, and ensure that this project is a good one for the City of Hudson before it is approved. I do not believe that this project, in its current parameters, is beneficial. However, I do believe with negotiation on some of the parameters, it could be such a project. . . . 
The members of the Common Council received the email from Garrard yesterday afternoon, but there was no mention of it at last night's informal meeting. It will be interesting to see if any consideration is given to Garrard's warnings and recommendations before the Council votes on the resolution authorizing the execution of the PILOT agreement next Tuesday.


  1. Since Dan Kent wouldn’t disclose the dollar amount Of the report he said he had, showing the taxes the Galvan project would pay under the 581A law, (which uses the same income approach used by every Appraiser and buyer of income property), we have no way of knowing whether the $500/month rent example used is the total rent the developer gets, or whether there are subsidies via Section 8 or other government programs, so that $500 becomes the tenant’s share, but the actual gross rent is higher. Which changes the project value, and therefore their fair share of the tax burden.
    We won’t know, because Galvan won’t disclose the contents of the report. But Crosswinds was built without a PILOT. So it obviously can be done. If the council denies the PILOT and it still gets built, Galvan will have to justify their assessment, just like the rest of us who grieve our assessments. Since the average housing unit in Hudson is paying $5366 in combined taxes, really all we’re asking for is that everyone pays their fair share.
    Mary Ann Gazzola

  2. Very happy that an expert like Rebecca Garrard is watching out for our interests as a city. I'm not sure that the Common Council is doing so. Their enthusiasm for affordable housing seems to blind them to all other crucial considerations. I will circulate Ms Garrard's comments. Thank you, Carol for posting this.