A major affordable housing complex at Elmwood Avenue and Utica Street in Buffalo received an extension of the PILOT agreement that keeps its property taxes low.
The PILOT for Elmwood Square has been sitting in Common Council committee since January. On Tuesday, it came out of committee and was approved during a special session of the Council, scheduled only hours before. It was one of a series of measures that popped up and pushed through.
For decades, the 138-unit apartment complex has towered over the intersection, its height a target in development struggles in the Elmwood Village because it is really out-of-scale in the neighborhood. Council Majority Leader David Rivera said it is important to keep the project affordable.
"If the owner of the building turned around and said, 'I want to do market rate there,' he would easily get it in the Elmwood Village. We want affordable housing in the Elmwood Village on that street," Rivera said. "It's very important that we have affordable housing, not only in areas of poverty, but we also have affordable housing in an area where people want to live, such as the Elmwood Village."
The overall plan for the conversion of the old Women and Children's Hospital to Elmwood Crossing just up the street in the upscale neighborhood calls for that project to include affordable housing. The PILOT or payment in lieu of taxes agreement calls for Elmwood Square to pay $100,00 in property taxes this year, three-quarters to the City of Buffalo and the rest to Erie County, rising to $152,000 in 15 years.
Councilmember Richard Fontana had some doubts.
"They're telling us they cannot make the finances work to make repairs. That's what they're telling us. Our fiscal situation is so dire that we can't pay regular taxes at this point to do some moderate repairs, nothing big," Fontana said. "We're not looking to rebuild the place. In 15 more years, there are going to be more repairs and they're not going to have a PILOT. Will they be afforded a PILOT? Maybe, potentially. Can you get a 45-year PILOT in the City of Buffalo on a project?"
Council President Pridgen agreed there should be more info available.
"I agree with Councilmember Fontana," Pridgen said. "A lot of times, we take people's words for it and I think people should be prepared as we come back in September that there will be a lot more questions on those numbers when they say affordable housing. They're taken to heart."