Coming along: Housing project moving swiftly in city

Housing project moving swiftly in city

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Work on a three-bedroom, handicap-accessible, single-family home at 77 Doughty St. is progressing. It’s part of STEL’s housing project that’s redeveloping 25 structures near Route 60 in the city.

A late winter may have kept the project from initiating sooner, but the rehabilitation and construction of homes near a main thoroughfare in Dunkirk are expected to be complete by March 2019.

Neighbors near the sites and motorists traveling on Route 60 may have noticed the tear down of homes and the pouring of foundations at several locations. It’s all part of the Southern Tier Environments for Living’s $16 million housing project that’s creating 49 units of various sizes. Thirteen structures are being built while 12 existing ones will be completely gutted and rehabilitated.

Eleven of the structures will be single-family homes, and residents who are picked to live in them would have the ability to purchase the home after a 15-year period.

The rest of the structures will be comprised of multi-family units with the majority constructed townhouse-style. They’ll feature anywhere from two to four units, besides a five-unit building across from School 3. Each unit will have its own access point.

Not only is the project creating new and improved homes for individuals and families, but it’s also redeveloping some blighted areas near the major thoroughfare in the city.

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy STEL and city officials observe the progress being made on a three-bedroom, handicap-accessible, single-family home at 77 West Doughty St. on Thursday. Pictured from right are Mayor Willie Rosas; STEL Executive Director Tom Whitney; Steven Ald, STEL director of real estate. Pictured in the back are Ashley Switzer, STEL human resources associate and project manager and Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Civiletto.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” STEL Executive Director Tom Whitney said. “We want people moving in to want to stay and build a sense of community there. We have had neighbors say that they want to have their house painted now, so hopefully, it will be an impetus for the whole neighborhood to show improvement.”

STEL, a Chautauqua County based housing and support services provider, is the project’s developer and managing agent. STEL is also the owner of the property as they’ve formed the Dunkirk Renovation and Ownership L.P.

Those who occupied some of the project sites were relocated, and according to Ashley Switzer, STEL human resources associate and project manager, those individuals are being contacted to see if they’re interested in coming back. Once they see who’s interested in returning and who’s not, a mass marketing effort would commence to gather interest.

“First we have to see how many of the people that used to live there want to come back,” Switzer said. “We can’t solicit people until all of those people are contacted. We did send out the first mailing and we requested correspondence as to whether they’re coming back. Now we’re going to be sending our final correspondence.”

Once notices are issued, individuals interested in units will be required to fill out an application. Switzer said their application would then enter a lottery, and once the application and person is picked, a review would initiate to ensure all questions are answered and proper information is provided. An interview would then be conducted to see if they meet the requirements and standards.

“Folks will be vetted accordingly,” Switzer said.

Those entering new homes will be encouraged to take a homeownership training class. Whether or not they think they’re going to buy the home, individuals will be trained on how to maintain a home as if they were owners. STEL will be paying for future tenants to go through a class by Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. and Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation & Improvement Corp.

According to Steven Ald, director of real estate for STEL, a portion of the rent that’s paid is set aside in what’s known as a replacement reserve in the event a major repair is warranted. Ald said STEL would be able to tap into it during its 15 years of ownership so the tenant wouldn’t be on their own if a major issue needed fixing.

If a single-family home is sold to the tenant, reserve funds that were held for that building would become accessible to that tenant to use, but they would still have to have permission.

As long as individuals have credit, Ald said they should have no problem getting a mortgage for a home because “the loan-to-value ration is going to be great.”

“Basically they’d assume the outstanding debt,” Ald said. “They’d take out a loan of their own to buyout the outstanding debt, which in 15 years, would be a fraction of the cost to build the home.”

Ald added that there would be restrictions if the owner of a new home wanted to sell it later on. Ald said it would have to be sold to another person who’s income qualified.

“It wouldn’t be just anybody that they could sell to,” he said.

For those living in new units who better themselves and get a pay raise, STEL says they won’t be kicked out if their income goes up. Their rents would be adjusted accordingly, however.

While those who previously lived at the project sites will get first preference, veterans will get second preference.

Whoever’s moving into the new units in the future, Switzer said they should realize that they’re going to be living in some of the best housing the city’s seen.

“Appreciate it, take ownership of it and treat it with the respect that it deserves,” she said.

Mayor Willie Rosas says he’s impressed with the work and how fast it’s coming along. Rosas said the project is very good for the city as it provides residents with the opportunity to purchase homes and eventually become taxpaying citizens.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for the city,” Rosas said. “I commend STEL and staff for the they’ve done to bring this project to the city of Dunkirk.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Civiletto said Chautauqua County, and Dunkirk in particular, has old housing stock. Civiletto says he’s excited to see the work underway in the city.

“The fact that we’re going to have new housing in Dunkirk is exciting,” he said. “We’re getting brand new houses and things are moving forward. People are going to be able to get into energy efficient fantastic houses.”

STEL says they thank the community for bearing through the construction that’s underway at the various sites.

Those looking to submit applications for a home or unit can do so by stopping by STEL’s administrative building, located at 715 Central Ave.

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