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Apr. 26, 2013

Affordable Seniors Multifamily Community Completed in N.Y. State

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

New Windsor, N.Y.—A new seniors housing community called Amber Grove has been completed in New Windsor, N.Y., about an hour’s drive north of New York City. The 80,000-square-foot community features 84 one-bedroom apartments, as well as a community room, several lounges, laundry facilities and on-site parking.

Specifically designed for independent senior living, the affordable rental property is fully leased and has a waiting list of prospective residents. Three rent levels have been established: $330, $620 and $760 per month, for households at 30, 50 and 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) respectively.

“One of the important story lines here involves inclusionary zoning,” Doug Olcott, senior vice president and regional director of the Hudson Valley office of Hawthorne, N.Y.-based Community Preservation Corporation, tells MHN. “This is actually a second wave of senior development. There’s another about five minutes away . . . Both [communities] were made possible by the town.”

The town of New Windsor created an inclusionary zoning district for affordable senior housing, Olcott reports. Within that zone the town allows higher density, to permit multifamily housing specifically built as affordable senior residences.

Near Rt. 32, the commercial corridor in this region of Orange County, there exist considerable retail and other types of commercial enterprises, as well as a number of 30- to 40-year-old multifamily communities, he adds.

“They are market rate and not affordable to the average senior,” Olcott says. “There are also residential subdivisions not appropriate for senior populations. [However,] any town can do this. If they want a certain kind of housing, they can include it in their zoning. They can provide density bonuses to developers, for instance. It’s all about creating affordable housing in general for the population of a town. The most powerful tool out there, even more powerful than government subsidies, is zoning. Instead of suburban sprawl, you preserve open space by allowing this kind of density.”

Financing for Amber Grove resulted from an extensive public-private partnership. CPC provided an $8.725 million first mortgage construction loan. The New York State Common Retirement Fund will provide a $2.75 million 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan with 100 percent SONYMA insurance.

Orange County Trust and Riverside Bank were participants in CPC’s construction loan. In addition, the project gained public subsidy including $12.9 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits, allocated by HCR and syndicated by First Sterling Financial, and a $1.377 million Housing Trust Fund grant.

One of the few hurdles to be overcome was a construction challenge. The site of the new development sits directly across the street from a New York State Historic Site, the Revolutionary War headquarters of major general Henry Knox, commander of the American artillery. New Windsor town planners wanted developer Jonah Mandelbaum to also build a stone wall fronting the property to blend in with the historic appearance of the site. The wall was erected.

Mandelbaum is a long-time collaborator with CPC, and over 20 years he and the organization have joined forces to finance the building of more than 1,000 units.

“Jonah builds one or two of these each year, and we’ve done close to 20 projects with him, most of them senior projects, in Orange and Sullivan Counties,” Olcott says. He adds that like the others, Amber Grove will serve a key purpose. “The most important thing is that people who grew up in a community can stay there as seniors, close to their family and friends, and don’t have to move away.”

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