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New Windsor affordable housing project underway

January 22nd, 2013

Plans are moving forward on the construction of a 272-unit affordable housing complex off Temple Hill Road in the town of New Windsor.

The $30 million apartment complex is slated to provide affordable housing for seniors, disabled veterans, eligible members of the workforce and people with special needs, said Jonah Mandelbaum, president of project developers Warwick Properties, Inc.

“Everyone must meet specific income criteria determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” he said. “Veterans will get priority to move in.”

A conditional approval of the project site plan was granted by the town Planning Board this month. Mandelbaum said it would take at least three years before construction was completed.

The apartment complex will be located on approximately 20 acres of property in between the Continental Manor condominiums and the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor on Temple Hill Road.

Construction will be done in three phases. “We’ll start the construction of the main road this summer, during the first phase,” Mandelbaum said.

The road is expected to cut through the complex and connect to Temple Hill Road. The development will house 186 senior citizen units, 84 workforce housing units and 2 caretaker apartments, according to Town of New Windsor Building Inspector Jennifer Gallagher.

The project directly addresses housing needs outlined in the county’s master plan, said Dave Church, Orange County commissioner of planning. “We’ve found there is a significant housing affordability gap in the region and in the county,” he said.

Those findings are based on the 2009 Three-County Regional Housing Needs Assessment study conducted by government planning departments in Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties.

An October letter from the county Department of Planning to the New Windsor Town Board summarizes the assessment’s findings regarding a lack of affordable housing in the town.

“This assessment estimated that the Town of New Windsor is expected to have (an) owner affordability gap of 7,585 units and a renter affordability gap of 3,030 units in 2015,” the letter reads. “Therefore the proposed affordable apartments will help to reduce this gap.”

Rental rates for affordable housing are determined based on county median incomes, said Church.

According to the Orange County planners, the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau places the median household income in Orange County at $66,224 in 2011. The family median income for that year was $78,308.

“In the county, ‘affordable housing’ typically represents 80 percent or less of household median income in the county,” Church said. “Workforce housing represents 80 to 120 percent of the county median income.”

Church described “workforce housing” as often benefiting younger workers, single parent households and residents with limited income who don’t meet the criteria for affordable housing.

Some residents of the town claim the property is improperly zoned for a workforce housing project. “They’re trying to ram this project down our throats,” said 68-year-old Umbert Merolle, a member of New Windsor Concerned Citizens. “Workforce housing is not permitted in this zone by town code.”

Current town zoning code states otherwise, according to town attorney Michael Blythe, who read directly from town zoning code, revised in October.

“Provided that a proposed development meets the requirements of both the workforce housing overlay zoning district and the totally affordable senior housing overlay district and the regulations applicable to both, the town board may consider special use permit application that would combine both…”

The town board granted a special use permit for the project on Dec. 17.

“From my perspective and from the perspective of the planning board attorney, if an applicant meets the requirements of totally affordable senior housing and workforce housing, then it’s perfectly appropriate to combine the two in the same site plan,” said Blythe.

The development will be financed according to a federal tax credit program administered by the state Homes and Community Renewal agency, which provides tax credits to affordable housing developers.

The project is accompanied by a 40-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement, which Blythe said was permitted under the state Private Housing Finance Law. The PILOT provides a 40-year tax exemption, allowing property owners to provide payments to the municipality “in lieu” of property taxes.

“It’s what makes this affordable housing project affordable,” said Blythe.

Occupations Inc., a non-profit human services agency assisting the developmentally disabled, is partnering with Warwick on the project.

Occupations Inc. previously collaborated with Warwick to build the Sunrise Apartments affordable housing complex in the town of Wallkill. Mandelbaum said construction was expected to be complete by early spring.

Warwick has already built two senior apartment complexes in the town: the New Windsor Senior Housing complex and the Amber Grove housing complex.

“This is the third totally affordable senior housing development and the second workforce housing development in the town,” said Blythe, giving the Mason’s Ridge Apartments on Windsor Highway as another example of a workforce housing project.

“If you knocked on doors and asked folks what they think about living there, they’d tell you it was great place to live,” Blythe said.

Blythe said the need for affordable housing was critical, especially for seniors who may want and need to sell their homes but remain residents in the town. “This makes it affordable for them to do it,” he said.

By Shantal Parris Riley

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