After years of fighting over more affordable housing, one local developer has voluntarily set aside 15 percent of his new project for below-market-rate apartments - but are they really?
When the $25 million project at 990 Niagara Street in Buffalo is finished in about two years, it will tower over the changing West Side corridor as a 95-unit, 10-story structure built on top of an existing garage complex. It will also stand as a symbol of change in the fight over affordable housing in a city where rents are increasingly un-affordable.
The developer has agreed to a 15 percent affordable housing quota for the structure, or 14 units. The city Planning Board approved the project shortly after the announcement.
Andrew Crossed of Rochester's Park Grove Realty said this hits at his bottom line, because rents in those units will be a lot lower than the others. So he is seeking state help on construction cost.
"There's also a lot of support to fill those gaps. Not only the City of Buffalo has certain programs, but we will applying for specific state programs, as well," Crossed said. "They're not Section 8. They're not rent subsidies. These are subsidies designed to lower the cost of the project."
Crossed says the rents for the affordable units will be at least $500 less than the $1,500-$2,100 monthly rents for the other 81 units. That would translate to $1,000 a month for the "affordable housing" units, when the median rent in Buffalo is just over $700 a month.
PUSH Buffalo Organizing Director John Washington said the group is close to getting a similar commitment from another developer. He said William Paladino and Nick Sinatra have said their Elmwood Crossing project will have affordable units, but nothing is in writing yet.
Washington said PUSH still wants inclusionary zoning mandates of at least 30 percent for major projects and will continue to force the issue.
"This is a huge breakthrough and I think Andy is being shy, because I'm sure he has some friends in the business," said Washington, "but this is an example that this can be done, that there is absolutely no reason that the City of Buffalo should not establish a law requiring inclusionary zoning for all projects. So there's no excuses."
Washington said housing is a human right.
"In this City of Buffalo, every government institution, every developer should be doing everything humanly possible to make sure that the 6,000 people that have become homeless since this gentrification wave happened and to make sure that older homeowners are able to stay in their homes," he said. "It's not my job to figure out the numbers. It's my job to make sure that everybody in this city is doing everything they can to make sure everyone has a decent place to live."