By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Liberty Affordable Housing and Commercial Residential Management (CRM) are hoping to rehab a second housing property in the city of Amsterdam.
At Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting in City Hall, Common Council members and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane heard from John Brennan, legal counsel for Liberty, who told the council that with one project successfully started in the city -- referring to the $20 million Colonial Square Apartments rehab -- they are ready to move to "plan B."
"That project has proceeded pretty well and we're pretty pleased with it," Brennan said of the current rehab. "Now that we've gotten to the crux of the rehab, we are on to plan B, which is Amsterdam's senior apartments."
Those senior apartments are the Theodore Roosevelt Apartments on Guy Park Avenue.
Brennan told the council that the one thing Liberty must demonstrate to the New York State Housing Finance Agency is what will be happening with the taxes going forward. The current assessment agreement between the city and owners of the property won't necessarily apply to Liberty, he continued, so they'd like to discuss the future plans.
"It's going to continue on as a senior project. It's going to be 100 percent supported by HUD as a Section 8 project. It's going to be deemed a federally-assisted project."
He said for this project they would like to enter into a tax-exemption agreement similar to the one Liberty entered into with the city for the Colonial Square Apartments, formerly the Highland-Holland Garden Apartments.
In August last year, the city entered into a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with Liberty for them to completely revamp the property. The type of agreement exempts Liberty and CRM from local and municipal taxes on the property, provided they make payments to the city.
Brennan said what they want the council to appreciate is that they will be doing the same "serious renovations" on the senior housing project, roughly $40,000 to $45,000 per unit. But once the renovations are finished, they don't have the revenue stream to pay any additional assessment.
Brennan said that HUD will not increase the subsidy for paying additional taxes.
"It's their rule," he said. "We're hoping we can demonstrate to you the good work that Liberty does."
Currently, he explained, the deal the owner has with the city is to pay $60,000 in taxes, but Liberty's budget can't afford that. Brennan said they would propose submitting a PILOT agreement that would allow them to pay $35,000 a year, to be adjusted annually.
One of the questions brought up by 4th Ward Alderman David Dybas was in regard to the occupancy rate.
John Varecka, president of CRM, told the council that the occupancy rate at the senior apartments is about 95 to 100 percent.
"With Colonial Square, you were fortunate in that there was not 95 percent occupancy, how will you handle that with a 99 percent occupancy?" Dybas posed. "Will people be displaced and where to?"
But Varecka explained that that wouldn't be the case. Scheduling will be the biggest thing and crews will work on portions of the one-bedroom apartments while residents are still there.
"A lot of it is cosmetic which can be done with the tenant in place," he said, adding that in total, crews will be in each apartment a total of nine days over the course of a month.
"They (the residents) will never be displaced for more than 12 hours," he added, and CRM will take care of any and all moving costs.
"It sounds like we're on board," Thane said.
Both Dybas and 2nd Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman extended positive comments to the presenters in regard to the work done at Colonial Square.
"People that moved out and moved back in, they were happy," Beekman said. "They couldn't believe they got a whole new apartment from top to bottom."
Brennan told the council that they want to be up front nd transparent about everything, and at the request of Dybas, will present them with their budget right away.
The time-frame is crucial, Brennan explained, as they are hoping to close the deal by July.
A resolution will be needed from the board authorizing the PILOT, which the council hopes to do by the May 21 council meeting.