July 10, 2013

Program targets multifamily housing

5 houses with 13 units have been bought, repaired using city program

joeHicksJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Joe Hicks of East Avenue in Cortland talks about a new deck at a home he recently purchased and repaired as part of a city low-income housing program. .

Staff Reporter

Cortland resident Joe Hicks purchased a two-family home on 6 East Ave. in January with the help of a city homebuyer program.
The first-time homebuyer fixed up the property, moved in and rented the upstairs to tenants, receiving about $20,000 from the program.
The program, which began in 2011, is designed to fix up multifamily housing in the city. So far, five houses with a total of 13 units have been bought.
Another 2-unit home is under contract but has not been closed, said Linda Armstrong, program coordinator for Thoma Development Consultants, which is admistering the program and a $400,000 state grant funding it.
Those interested in the program must have a minimum $5,000 downpayment to participate, be able to secure a mortgage and must be willing to live in the home for at least five years.
Participants can receive $16,000 toward closing costs and are eligible for an additional $20,000 for certain repairs identified by the city. The city can also give additional money under certain circumstances.
Any money received is forgiven after a 10-year period.
“It’s a really neat program, I lucked out on it,” Hicks said.
Don White of Cortland is also a participant in the program and is working on a two-unit home at 44 Miller St.
He said the rehabilitation program provided him with $40,000 because he bought a lower-end home which needed a lot of work, something most homebuyers are not inclined to do.
“That might scare some people,” White said, “But I’m lucky. I’m sort of a handyman, so I’m doing some of the work myself.”
White is working on plumbing, duct work, wiring and addressing some lead paint and asbestos issues. The home was built in the 1890s so the renovation is taking a bit longer than originally anticipated, he said.
White says he does not mind the extra work because he knows he will increase the overall home value and it will be nice when completed. He also wants to ensure everything is safe and works properly.
“I looked at the big picture,” White said. “I want it to be in good shape so a tenant doesn’t (have problems) down the road.”
Armstrong said the city is well on its way to achieving its goal of rehabbing six to eight structures with a total of 12 to 16 units.
The program is funded by the Community Development Block Grant Program offered through the state Office of Community Renewal. The city of Cortland submitted an application and was awarded $400,000 in 2011.
Armstrong said people interested in the multifamily rehabilitation program can still ask for a program package and submit an application.
Armstrong said in the past, there have been many variations of the housing program. Some focused on new construction while others focused on rehabilitating older homes. Some developments were citywide while other times, they targeted certain areas of the community, Armstrong said.
The city has not officially submitted an application for a 2013 project because city officials are not sure what type of housing project they want to work on.
“We look for what the need seems to be or what we haven’t done for a while,” she said. “We’re trying to find things that are new and fresh but where there’s also a need.”
The city has been very successful with its housing programs, Armstrong said.
Out of the 32 housing grants applications the city has submitted since 1980, only two or three have been turned down, she said.
She is hopeful the city will again receive a housing grant this year.
“We submitted an abbreviated proposal that was reviewed by the state,” Armstrong said. “We think they liked what they saw and that’s what makes us think we have a very high chance (of receiving funding).”


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