NIAGARA FALLS, NY – A ribbon cutting was held on Monday, to mark the completion of some long awaited subsidized housing in Niagara Falls.
However, some might find the price tag associated with these “affordable units" surprising.
The 41 apartment, contained in eight separate buildings, were constructed at a cost of $12 million by a Syracuse based not for profit called Housing Visions.
That equates to an average cost of $300,000 per unit, in a city where a decent home can be purchased for $60,000.
At the same time, Housing Vision’s Vice President for Development, Ben Lockwood, believes the units may impact an entire neighborhood, around what they've built.
“I think you have to look at the long term implications for the neighborhood after decades of dis-investment, and how do we start to rebuild it," Lockwood said.
A New Start In A New Place.
"It's a good way to restart you family, it's a good way to start over," said Jessica Shaffer, who now lives in a new apartment on 5th street.
A single mom with three kids, Shaffer says she went through an expensive custody battle, which left her in need for decent, affordable housing.
“To be able to start our lives over and to be able to go from having nothing, to having our own place, is just amazing," she said.
The construction began on 5th, 6th, and 7th street two years ago, involving the erection of seven new buildings, which have since been completed.
The last remaining component, the renovation of the once abandoned and crumbling former Niagara Falls Board of Education building, was recently finished and is awaiting tenants with the smell of fresh paint wafting throughout the structure, now transformed into bright new apartments.
$300K Per Unit?
“There’s different things that we have to adhere to," said Lockwood, in explaining how the cost per unit for the subsidized apartments exceeds the purchase price of most of the homes in even the city’s most desirable neighborhood.
According to Lockwood, these include high energy conservation benchmarks, which make these units more expensive than perhaps other new builds.
In some cases, the land acquired had to undergo costly environmental remediation, or the demolition of existing homes.
And, in the case of the Board of Education Building in particular, the developer had to adhere to strict, and therefore more costly guidelines in order to secure historic tax credits.
Some units include furnishings for low income renters.
Lockwood also noted that the project did not involve cookie cutter units in a single, cracker box building.
“There’s more in terms of high quality construction involved here,” said Lockwood, noting that the units were constructed to last 70 or more years. “And because we are not looking at a typical real estate development where you are making money on the cash flow, because cash flow is much less on this, you really have to put a lot of upfront costs in to make the numbers work out,” he said.