The city of Albany is offering $50,000 to people looking to take on the challenge of fixing up a vacant building and putting it back to use.
Kathy Sheehan mentioned the initiative -- the aptly-titled Vacant Building Rehabilitation Program -- during her state of the city address early this year. And on Tuesday the city released the details of the program, which is backed by $1 million.
The goal of the program is to help span the financial gap on projects where the cost of renovating a vacant building is likely more than what the building will be worth after its finished, and in the process help stabilize blocks. The city has hundreds of vacant buildings and many of them are in (or near) this category.
(Many vacant properties in the city are, or will eventually be, available to purchase via the Albany County Land Bank -- the org recently got a hold of another 265 properties in the city.)
The program is being administered through the Albany Community Development Agency, an arm of the city. It's offering up to $50,000 in the form of a forgivable loan for selected projects. The selection criteria, from the program packet:
1. The project must reduce blight, contributing to the economic recovery of the target area,
2. And/or the project must be located in a neighborhood with a significant number of vacant and/or abandoned buildings
3. And the project must be a vacant building under the Albany City Code Chapter 133 Article XI and XIA;
4. And the project must include renovation of residential or commercial units resulting in occupancy;
5. And the project must be financially feasible.
For a project to be eligible for funding from Vacant Building Rehabilitation Program, the applicant must demonstrate project feasibility, redevelopment experience, financial stability and structural integrity of the property. A completed pre-application does not guarantee funds from the Vacant Building Rehabilitation Program. All project applications will be presented to the ACDA board for final approval. ACDA reserves the right to reject any application when, in its judgment, rehabilitation of the project is not economically feasible or not in the best interest of neighborhood in which it is located.
The program packet details the many requirements and guidelines that projects must follow to land the funding and then have the loan converted to a grant -- on topics such as zoning, historic preservation, and lead paint. The program also requires that "owners must commit to either living in the residence or renting the residence for a period of at least five years from the date of completion." The loan is forgiven after that period.
Reading through the guidelines, it's pretty clear the city is trying to direct the funding to people who are 1) capable of doing the job and 2) willing to follow through on the requirements.
But Kathy Sheehan said Tuesday reps from the city will help applicants work through the requirements and look for other programs that might piece together other funding.
"We want to open as wide a pool of applicants as possible," Sheehan said. "We want to work with you to bring these building back to life."
Affordable housing has been a hot topic in Albany recently, with discussion about folding inclusionary zoning into Rezone Albany. [TU]
The Vacant Building Rehab Program includes an affordable housing provision, requiring rental properties that get the funding to have at least 50 percent of their units be affordable. In this case, "affordable" means a studio could rent for $690, a one-bedroom for $782, a two-bedroom for $968, a three-bedroom for $1,206, and a three bedroom for $1,294 -- all rents including utilities.
(Affordable housing is a big and complicated and important topic and it's something we want to come back to soon.)
As mentioned, the program includes $1 million in overall funding. The money will be distributed as projects are approved, and when it's gone, it's gone.
The backstory on the funding is a little odd. The roots of the money stretch back three decades when the city of Albany made a loan for an affordable housing project as part of a federal program that no longer exists. The $1 million is the repayment of the loan, via the feds.
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.