Council moves forward on arts housing measures

The City Council passed a series of measures last month to move forward with a proposed affordable housing development geared toward artists at the former Elizabethtown Gas building.

Ordinance 3-13 — introduced Jan. 14 and up for final approval on Feb. 11 — would execute a financial agreement between the city and the AFHDC for the affordable housing project, for a term not to exceed the agency’s mortgage for the project, with an annual fee to be determined as a percentage of annual gross revenues, not to exceed 20 percent.

The city would collect between $33,000 and $38,000 based on 6.2 percent of a projected $617,000 in gross rents, according to Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier. That percentage was requested by the developer but is still under negotiation with the Redevelopment Agency, he said, adding that the length of the mortgage has not been agreed to yet. The property is currently assessed at about $500,000, making for an annual property tax bill of about $30,000. The Redevelopment Agency is negotiating the purchase of the site at Central Avenue and Hamilton Street from AGL Resources, the parent company of Elizabethtown Gas.

Also up for final approval at the Feb. 11 council meeting will be an ordinance (O-3-13) to amend the redevelopment plan. Representatives of the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) are expected to appear at one of the February council meetings to address questions about the proposal.

A resolution (AR-4-13) also approved by council declared the project will meet an existing housing need and that the Redevelopment Agency will make a mortgage loan to the AFHDC, which will construct, own and operate the 69-unit facility.

Ordinance 2-13 would amend the Central Business District (CBD) redevelopment plan for Block 167, Lot 1 (the former Elizabethtown Gas Building), stipulating permitted principal land uses and permitted bulk standards (including up to 75 units per acre, a maximum four stories/50 feet, and minimum lot area of 30,000 square feet), and minimum number of parking spaces (1 per unit, with a maximum 0.33 spaces per unit provided on site).

The AFHDC initially proposed 60 units but has since increased the idea to 69 units and the organization recently came before the Redevelopment Agency with survey findings it believes show very strong demand for artist housing. They told the agency that additional low-income housing tax credits for Hurricane Sandy-affected areas are included in legislation that was considered by the House of Representatives on Jan. 15. Original development costs were estimated at $15 million, based on the 60-unit plan, including subsidized low-income housing tax credits of 4 to 7.5 percent.