City leaders wary of public-private housing plan

HUDSON–Prominent Columbia County and Hudson City residents filled the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners meeting January 9 regarding plans to erect new buildings in Hudson across State Street from Bliss Tower. Concerns they brought up included choice of developer, communication with the public and nature of the intended new residents.

Attendees included Tom De Pietro, president of the Hudson Common Council; Alderwoman Eileen Halloran (D-Hudson, 5th Ward); Virginia Martin, Democratic County Election Commissioner; Don Moore, former Common Council president and county supervisor; and County Supervisor Sarah Sterling (D-Hudson, 1st Ward).

The proposed new housing, known as State Street Apartments, is to consist of two four-story buildings: one with 33 apartments for senior citizens with low incomes; the other with 40 apartments for “families” with moderate incomes. Construction is part of a project that will also include reconstructing all apartments in the Bliss complex, which consists of 135 apartments for individuals and families with low incomes: 120 in Bliss Tower (9 stories), and 15 in the Columbia Apartments, which comprises 3 two-story buildings).

HHA owns both the Bliss site and the proposed new construction site. Like other public housing authorities across the country, HHA is converting to a so-called RAD partnership with private companies. For its RAD partner, HHA chose a team consisting of Property Resources Corporation (PRC) and Duvernay and Brooks (D&B). PRC is a real estate development, construction and property management firm based in White Plains; D&B, is a developer based in Manhattan.

In return for performing basic repairs and maintenance on the Bliss complex, the team is to receive a developer’s fee, tax credits and a construction project to qualify it for these benefits. PRC spokespeople have said they hoped to close the deal in June 2019, and work on both sites simultaneously. Construction time may take a year and a half.

Public housing has not been getting enough money from the federal government for basic upkeep. For lack of this upkeep, 15,000 public housing units have deteriorated to the point of being uninhabitable, said Tim Mattice, executive director of the HHA. Consequently, some have been demolished. Others, like the 20 apartments in Bliss Tower that the HHA found uninhabitable, have been merely taken off line, pending repairs. The government offers turning to the private sector as the only way to finance making these units habitable again.

“Public Housing as we know it is in a transitional phase,” said Mr. Mattice. “It’s like the wild West out there. RAD isn’t the best. There have been complaints. But it’s the only thing around.” But he reiterated, “Bliss Towers will always be maintained as public housing. It will not be sold, demolished, or converted to market rate housing.”

When the HHA sent out bids for a private partner, it required the partner have RAD conversion experience. At the January 9 meeting, some prominent attendees said they thought that requirement too restrictive. Matthew Frederick, an architect who lives in Hudson, noted that the choice of developer “affects the shape of the project.”

Dan Hubbell, mixed finance development legal counsel, explained that though RAD rules did not require a developer with previous RAD experience, “someone with RAD experience already we thought was more likely to know and fulfill the RAD regulation requirements and then accurately train the staff to fulfill them.”

“Things keep moving forward as we’re trying to find out what has already happened,” Mr. Frederick said. “We’re getting roped with this. It doesn’t seem fair. RAD conversions require three public meetings,” said Mr. Frederick. “What have been those meetings? Have they taken place?”

Mr. Mattice said so far two of the meetings have taken place. (See table.) The third would happen when the HHA receives official acceptance of its RAD conversion.

“What is the income limits on the new section,” asked a woman. “The situation in Hudson is we have a lot of young people who are creative types. They don’t make a lot of money. But we don’t want to shut out people who make Hudson vibrant.”

Alan Weaver, chairman of the HHA Board of Commissioners, said the senior building would allow incomes up to 30% the Area Median Income, and Mr. Mattice said the family building would allow incomes from 50 to 65% of that income level. “We don’t want to create a low income section like Cabrini-Green,” the woman continued, referring to a large Chicago housing project with a bad reputation.

“This is not housing for Hudson; it’s housing in Hudson,” said Mr. Moore.

“Then why aren’t you concerned about people moving here from New York City and buying $700,000 houses?” asked Mr. Weaver. “We have a mission to fulfill. What about people who work in Staples and Walmart? They need a place to live. Low income housing does contribute to the city. That it doesn’t is a misconception.”

“This project definitely benefits the city,” said board Vice President Randall Martin, in a conversation on January 11. “Hudson needs affordable, safe, and clean places to live. That’s our mission. And we’re one of the few standing up to the plate. We can help create a better neighborhood. People who can’t afford $1,500 to $2,000 a month in rent deserve to live in Hudson. Hudson shouldn’t be only for elites.”

Hudson Housing Authority’s RAD Conversion Timeline

(Source: Tim Mattice, January 14, 2019)

April-June 2017; RAD discussions begin at HHA

October 2017; Tim Mattice becomes HHA executive director

December 13, 2017; First RAD public hearing

January 10, 2018; Second RAD public hearing

February 28, 2018; Pre-submittal meeting to find RAD partner. Four developers come: two from Poughkeepsie, one from Albany (Beacon Communities), and the PRC/D&B team

Fall 2018; Beacon and PRC team submit bids. HHA chooses PRC team.

October 30, 2018; Charrette for public to see preliminary architectural plans

October 31, 2018; HHA submits application for RAD conversion

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