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Posted on: November 16, 2023


Buffalo News


BMHA unveils plans for renovations at Frederick Douglass, Francis John Apartments

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is moving on with its $28.8 million plan to renovate the Frederick Douglass II and Francis John Senior Apartments, but with a new developer.

The agency will proceed with the project with its nonprofit subsidiary, Bridges Development, as the sole developer, after Savarino Companies, its original co-developer with Bridges, went out of business.

“We are excited this important project can continue to move forward,” said BMHA Executive Director Gillian D. Brown. “I have every confidence that BMHA and Bridges Development will deliver a high-quality outcome which bolsters Buffalo’s affordable housing inventory.”

This is the latest effort in the BMHA's $1 billion campaign to bring the city's aging public housing stock up to modern standards, with particular focus on three of its biggest and oldest complexes.

Together with Habitat Co. of Chicago and Duvernay + Brooks of New York as partners, the city's housing agency plans to spend upwards of $400 million to redevelop the Marine Drive complex, by replacing the seven existing 12-story structures with a modern affordable housing complex with 700 new units, up from the current 616.

It will also work with Pennrose to spend as much as $300 million on Perry, where they will tear down most of a deteriorating 10-block, 30-acre complex – much of which is already vacant and boarded-up, or previously demolished – and rebuild or renovate a range of townhouse, triplex, mid-level and tower buildings with more than a 1,000 units. Finally, there's the Shaffer Village Apartments redevelopment, whose details have not yet been finalized.

Plans call for Bridges to undertake extensive renovations at Frederick Douglass II, at 180 and 210 Jefferson Ave., and at Francis John, at 1201 Broadway. Frederick Douglass has 112 units, while Francis John has 62.

The work will begin immediately upon closing of the financing, which is coming from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the state Housing Finance Agency. BMHA and Bridges have also committed to maintaining rental rates that are affordable for residents earning less than 50% of the area median income.

The decision by the agency's board of commissioners marks the latest repercussion from Savarino's abrupt decision to close, after suffering more than $3.3 million in losses and being unable to get new insurance and jobs after it was dismissed from a state-funded SUNY construction project. While Savarino is working to complete some work already in progress, the closure left several projects in limbo or dead in the water unless another firm picks them up.

Separately, the agency's board also approved higher rent and utility expense allowances to help tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers to deal with higher consumer prices.

Rent allowances will increase by 8.79% to 9.44%, depending on apartment size, corresponding with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Market Rents. The increases in utility allowances for natural gas and electricity will also vary based on the type and size of the home, as well as the type of heating, cooling and other appliances.

The rent limit for a one-bedroom unit will rise from $908 per month to $992, while a four-bedroom apartment rent cap would increase from $1,470 to $1,604 per month.

The new limits are retroactive to Nov. 1 for tenants who are relocating, and on Jan. 1 for new and recertifying Section 8 residents. 

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