Got housing? City pursues the facts

HUDSON–The Common Council adopted a resolution at a special meeting July 12 to seek a $20,000 grant from the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation’s Office of Community Renewal for a housing needs assessment and a long-term housing plan for the city.

“I rise in full support,” said Mayor Rick Scalera of the effort before the vote.

“This grant will enable the city to take stock of its current housing situation and determine what its needs will be,” he said in a phone interview last week following the vote.

“It will allow for the construction of a professional database that will function as a community development planning instrument to be used as a footprint to understand what our housing needs are in this city. Do we need affordable, subsidized, middle class or senior housing? This will help developers to understand if we need it, and may help or discourage them,” said the mayor.

Mr. Scalera said the last time the city studied vacant housing units, it did so informally. “We found we had a lot more than anticipated. This study will give us an indication of how many units are occupied, how many are subsidized or on vouchers,” he said.

The Crosswinds organization, which has been active elsewhere in the county, built the workforce housing units on Harry Howard Avenue over two years ago, before the onset of the current recession. Included in the preliminary work for that project was a study of the workforce housing needs in and around Hudson,.

“They thought we needed affordable housing,” the mayor said. “At that time a lot of apartments were being vacated on the upper floors of Warren Street buildings and were not being filled back in. Rents were becoming unaffordable in this city. Crosswinds built 70 units. From that point on we need to have a clear understanding of which way we need to go in our community.”

In addition to providing a database to support future grant applications and policy decisions, the grant application the council approved could lead to funds that help homeowners in low and middle income brackets repair the homes they live in, said grant writer John Duchessi of TGW Consultants, Inc. He earned praise from the mayor for his work with the city on a number of successful grant applications over the past three years. As for the new grant application, “It will address whatever needs are discovered,” Mr. Duchessi said.

Mr. Scalera met Mr. Duchessi at a conference for New York state mayors, when Mr. Duchessi was mayor of Amsterdam. “When he started a grant writing business, he offered to do a complete inventory of the whole city at no cost to find out what was needed for Hudson,” said Mr. Scalera. “They proved what they can do,” he said of TGW. “They’re good people. I’m glad they started right here in Hudson,” said the mayor.

Although Mr. Scalera cannot recall exactly how many grants the city has received during his time in office, he says it amounts to “millions of dollars.” But he refuses to take all the credit for the success. “It isn’t just me, it’s the fact that this community is a poor community that needs help outside the regular tax base. It’s a good combination. We have private investment and grants. We don’t want to leave anybody behind.

“That’s my job. It makes me feel good about this community. It’s my elected responsibility to do just that,” said the mayor who has been known to travel to Buffalo to lobby for grants in the past. “We talk to the right people. If you are convincing enough and passionate enough, they look at your application more favorably. You win some, you lose some.”

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