Over Twenty Years of Affordable Housing Development
Between 1998 and 2018, HOCN’s rehabilitation efforts invested over 20.9 million development dollars in Buffalo’s core communities. Over the past twenty years, HOCN has created and restored 361 units of quality, affordable housing, and provided 457 residents with quality, affordable housing. The impact of this work is both immediate and long-term, reaching the community on various levels.
As we move forward, HOCN will continue investing in quality, affordable housing in Buffalo’s core communities. Our work will continue to focus on maintaining existing homeownership, increasing access to affordable housing, and creating strategic partnerships to increase community enrichment.
Rehabbed Homes Photo Gallery
Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. creates programs to improve the quality of residential housing in Buffalo’s core communities. By working with residents and other neighborhood organizations we hope to provide accessible and affordable housing for all. HOCN has over 20 years of impact in the City of Buffalo. Below are several of the successful projects and initiatives we have completed.
Increasing Homeownership Opportunities
60 College Street: HOCN purchased, rehabilitated and sold this 1880’s Victorian home in 2003. It had become a deteriorating eyesore at the corner of Maryland and College streets due to an absentee landlord. A combination of funding from The Wendt Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC,) NYS HOME funds and a Fannie Mae grant were utilized.
318 Maryland Street: HOCN acquired and rehabilitated this deteriorating house into three low/moderate-income rental apartments in 2003. HOCN managed this property for 4 years before selling to a first-time home buyer.
Plymouth Avenue Block Reclamation Project: This initiative launched in 2002 with the purchase of 15 Plymouth Avenue in partnership with West Side Neighborhood Housing Services. The property has been sold and the new owner restored it to a single-family home.
42 Plymouth has been completely renovated by HOCN when a supporter purchased this house, strategically located in the middle of the targeted block. The first floor served as HOCN’s office for eight years, while the second floor was occupied by a tenant. In 2011, it was privately sold by the homeowner.
In 2007, HOCN acquired, rehabilitated, and sold two deteriorating properties on Plymouth Avenue; 23 and 44 Plymouth Avenue.
Just as we were on Plymouth Avenue, Heart of the City is committed to practicing a targeted approach, repairing and investing in one block at a time rather than making scattershot investments that are too sparse to shore up a community.
Hudson Street Revitalization Initiative: With the successful completion of the Plymouth Avenue Reclamation project, HOCN began a strategic development initiative on Hudson Street. The Hudson Street Revitalization Initiative employs a strategy of selective acquisition of vacant, dilapidated properties for rehabilitation and resale to new home owners. 263 Hudson Street was acquired and rehabilitation in 2009.
Moving West down Hudson Street to Niagara, HOCN acquired and rehabilitated 330 Prospect Avenue, an eyesore that sat vacant for many years on the corner of Hudson and Prospect Avenue. This double family home was completed in August of 2013 with a first-time homeowner now settled into the neighborhood. The high traffic corner, close to TOPS Market, has been transformed with this rehab.
Hudson Street, as with many streets within the City of Buffalo, has suffered heavily from disinvestment, property neglect, abandonment, and illegal activity. Just as we were on Plymouth Avenue, HOCN is committed to practicing a targeted approach, repairing and investing in one block at a time rather than making scattershot investments that are too sparse to shore up a community.
Whitney Place Properties Initiative: HOCN yet again undertook a bold and ambitious approach to fighting blight and abandoned homes within its service area. On October 01, 2008, HOCN began its Whitney Place Properties Initiative (WPPI) in an effort to reclaim this once vibrant street.
WPPI is an acquisition/ rehabilitation/ resale program that, once complete, will offer nine units of affordable green housing to low/ moderate income first time homebuyers looking to live on the Lower West Side of Buffalo. The program will educate both the homeowner and the tenant of their rights and responsibilities thereby making them better stewards of the property in which they live.
The total cost of this project is $378,971. HOCN has worked closely with New York State’s HCR, AHC in order to make this project a reality. In 2011, HOCN acquired and rehabilitated 251 and 245 Whitney Place, two vacant homes that blighted a block. These two houses now serve as the homes to two first-time homebuyer families. Continuing work on Whitney Place, HOCN has also begun rehabilitating two more vacant properties, 192 and 178 Whitney Place. These two single family homes were complete in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The investment connects Hudson Street down to Virginia, where HOCN held office space until 2016.
Strategic Partnerships for Increasing Homeownership: As we work to continue providing affordable homeownership options to families, we have begun partnering with long time community organizations like Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Through this partnership, we are able to use our expertise in affordable homeownership development to assist the religious institution with their Purdy Street Homeownership Initiative, building 2 new singled family homes at 152 and 160 Purdy Street in Buffalo’s East Side. This project will leverage $582,074 from the City of Buffalo to complete this CHDO project and move two families into new homes, filling a vacant lots in the community.
Maintaining Homeownership Through Owner-Occupied Repairs
Senior Rehabilitation Assistance Program: To pair with HOCN’s ongoing efforts towards neighborhood revitalization, the organization launched a new moderate home repair program in 2010. Known locally as “Planning to Stay,” the purpose of this program is to empower frail, elderly, and physically disabled homeowners to maintain independence, remain civically engaged, and gracefully age in the comfort of their own homes. One of the biggest challenges HOCN faces is coming up with a solution of how to combat neglect and disrepair of properties and retain homeownership in the neighborhood. This project targets the lack of property maintenance that plagues residents in the area by offering frail, elderly, and/or disabled homeowners grant assistance to complete moderate repairs in their homes when they have housing code violations or need to replace deficient systems.
This program has received tremendous feedback and support from both neighborhood residents and community organizations alike. The 2010 funding received in by New York State’s HCR AND AHC that provided a maximum of $23,500 to 15 units was completed over one year ahead of schedule with a total of 19 units receiving assistance.
Green & Healthy Homes Rehabilitation Program: In 2010, the Buffalo Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (BGHHI) was created by the Attorney General’s Office and administered by the Community foundation of Greater Buffalo. The key innovation of the BGHHI program is its use of “resource-braiding” to attract funding from a range of governmental and philanthropic sources. With additional resources, money is coordinated and focused on “whole-home” remedies. This approach has allowed the program to address the full range of energy efficiency and weatherization improvements, as well as health and safety needs of homeowners through single, comprehensive interventions.
In order to expand minor home repair opportunities to more low-income homeowners, HOCN created the Green & Healthy Homes Program. Similar to Planning to Stay, this program provides grant assistance to complete moderate repairs in their homes when they have housing code violations or need to replace deficient systems. The program launched in 2011 with funding from New York State’s HCR and AHC, as well as support from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Health Foundation of Central and Western New York to assist 30 owner-occupied units. At its completion in 2014, 37 homeowner units received assistance under this funding.
In 2013, HOCN received $552,000 of support from AHC to continue our program. By the end of the first year, HOCN had assisted 6 homeowner units, all of which received assistance.
In 2014, HOCN took on a new role with the BGHHI as not just a Production Partner, but as the Production Manager, working directly with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to ensure the effectiveness of the Buffalo Production Partners.
Home Repair Assistance Program: In 2015, HOCN continued our home repair efforts with the launch of the Home Repair Assistance Program. Similar to the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, this program was developed to address repairs in aging homes, providing stability and longevity to the community. After addressing two special at risk populations, it became clear to HOCN that our home repair program should be expanded. HOCN received $765,000 from AHC to include low-income families, who are also at high risk of being negatively affected by health hazards in their home. With this funding, HOCN assisted 30 units of residential housing with needed repairs in two years, exceeding our goal of 20 units.
In 2017, HOCN was awarded an additional $1,147,500 to continue expanding our efforts and assist an additional 30 units. HOCN looks forward to continuing this program, as our waiting list continues to grow every day.
Increasing Access to Affordable Housing
Watkins Building, 170 West Chippewa Street: In 2001, HOCN began a three year rehabilitation of this former Pan American Exposition Hotel that sat as a vacant eyesore in Buffalo for many years. The building was converted to six, tw0-bedroom units by utilizing $479,000 in funding received from the Community Preservation Corporation, the City of Buffalo, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC.) HOCN managed this property for five years before selling.
Cynthia Gardens Development: In the mid 1890’s, a beautiful and luxurious apartment building was constructed at 294 Hudson Street called “The Valois.” This lot was originally home to the entrance of the Sideway Mansion, The apartment building was designed in the French Gothic style by architect Fred Harvey Loverin, built of Roman-shaped buff brick and trimmed with Ohio buff sandstone. The main entrance floor was finished with mosaic tile with marble trim and its halls were floored with white oak. Unfortunately, this 12 unit building burnt down in 2001 and was demolished. Since then, 294-302 Hudson Street had been a vacant lot.
In order to fill the void this large vacant lot created in the community, HOCN decided to reintroduce the original use of this land- residential rental housing. As a community development corporation, we value quality affordable housing for all. These eight units will provide just that, a direct response to the lack of quality affordable rental opportunities for working families in our neighborhood. When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often.
The $1.5 million development includes two townhouse-style buildings that are designed to reflect the neighborhood’s historic character. There are four 2-bedroom apartments and four 3-bedroom apartments. All eight units come complete with spacious bedrooms, plenty of windows for natural lighting, central air, a private porch overlooking Hudson Street, bistro-style kitchen, laundry room, dining room, and in-unit storage. Today, all eight units are occupied as our waiting list for affordable rental housing in the neighborhood grows.
Mt Aaron Manor Apartments: In 2015, HOCN and Mt. Aaron Missionary Baptist Church partnered to help bring affordable housing to Pratt-Willet community on Buffalo’s East Side. The City of Buffalo awarded $1.4 million to Mt. Aaron Manor Housing Development Fund Corp. to fund the Mt. Aaron Manor apartment. This project brought in additional funding sources from the Federal Home Loan Bank, M&T Bank, and Evans Bank.
Heart of the City Neighborhoods served as the project’s developer, lending our knowledge and skills as affordable housing developers. Heart of the City Neighborhoods firmly believes that senior citizens are an invaluable part of our communities that deserve to continue to remain in the neighborhoods they’ve invested in for so many years. When an opportunity arose to work with leaders in the Pratt-Willett community who share the save values, HOCN happily rose the occasion.
Mt. Aaron Manor was completed in July 2016, and is a two story, 10 unit apartment building located at 528 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY 14204, adjacent to the Mt. Aaron Missionary Baptist Church, located at 540 Genesee St. under the leadership of Reverend Dwayne Jones. The property was once a vacant lot, but is now home for long-time community members. All units are one bedroom apartments and available for seniors ages 62 and older on a fixed-income. The building has been designed in a manner that takes into account the materials and colors of other structures in the neighborhood to ensure cohesiveness.
Strategic Partnerships for Multi-Family Housing: Sharing what we’ve learned over the years, HOCN continued to partner with community anchors in Buffalo’s core communities who needed assistance with project management and community development. These efforts work to increase the availability of affordable housing services in the areas of Buffalo where gaps in services exist.
Our experienced team provided assistance with community development and organization, a key step in affordable housing development. In addition, HOCN worked with groups on various aspects of developing affordable rental housing, from the pre-application phase through construction, including rent-up, outreach, management, and grant compliance.
In addition to working with Mt. Aaron Manor Housing Development Fund Corp., we partnered with Regan Development in 2018 to leverage funding, market, and rent an adaptive reuse project known as the Niagara Gateway Apartments located at 885 Niagara Street on Buffalo’s West Side. This project reintroduced 67 affordable rental units to the community, leveraging $12.2 million from the Housing Trust Fund Corporation.
Continuing to do the work that we do with trusted community organizations, HOCN has partnered with Bethesda World Harvest International Church to complete an adaptive reuse of 8 affordable rental units known as the Main Utica Square Apartments at 1373 Main Street in Buffalo. This project will leverage $2.1 million from the City of Buffalo with units are scheduled to be available in 2020. HOCN has also formed a partnership with Mt. Olive Baptist Church to reintroduce 6 preserved affordable rental units to the East Delevan community in 2020, and KCG to reintroduce 101 affordable rental units to the Wildroot Building at 1740 Bailey Avenue in 2020.
Enriching Neighborhoods Through Community Engagement
Buffalo Main Streets Initiative Program for Niagara Street: In an effort to increase community development and help our mixed-use corridors improve alongside residential housing, HOCN administered two Buffalo Main Streets Initiative Programs between 2015-2017.
HOCN was awarded $300,000 through the Better Buffalo Fund to implement the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative (BMSI) Program in our community. The BMSI Program in our community is made possible by Empire State Development’s Better Buffalo Fund and New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation. The BMSI for Lower Niagara Street served as a reimbursement program that provided 4 commercial and mixed-use property owners with a 75% match (three dollars of grant funds for each one dollar of owner funds) for commercial building renovations and residential improvements on Niagara Street between Georgia St. and Porter Ave. Improvements included façade renovations and interior commercial and residential building upgrades. This exciting program put $233,211 into the community, assisting 4 commercial and 6 residential units, complementing the investment the City of Buffalo provided to our community through the Niagara Street Reconstruction Project, and giving hardworking business owners a great opportunity to improve their storefronts.
HOCN also administered a $265,000 grant through the Better Buffalo Fund to assist Breezer Development LLC with the renovation of the long-time vacant mixed-use property at 1225 Niagara Street. This program provided a 50% reimbursement to the property owner to restore the façade, and completely renovate the commercial space and three residential units, restoring an anchor along the commercial corridor of Niagara Street.
Buffalo Main Streets Initiative Program for Grant Street: In 2018, HOCN was awarded an additional $300,000 from the Housing Trust Fund Corporation to oversee the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative on Grant Street, between West Ferry and Potomac Avenue. This program anticipates putting $275,000 into the mixed-use business district, assisting up to 7 commercial and 6 residential units.
Beautification, Education, and Community Involvement
A key component to what HOCN does is beautification. The work of rehabilitating older homes is aimed towards complementing the neighborhood’s unique architectural character, celebrating the exquisiteness that already exists. All of HOCN’s work is aimed at preserving the fabric of the neighborhood, supporting what exists in order to prevent further deterioration that comes with an increase of vacant lots. Creating a stronger physical network cultivates more connections between the community members. This is part of HOCN’s vision, and why we continually encourage the development of block clubs and community self-initiatives. A closer community promotes solidarity among members, creating a healthier neighborhood in which to live.
Traffic Calming Initiative: In 2000, HOCN helped plan an effort to slow traffic in the Lower West Side, endorsed by interested block and supported by local officials and community leaders
Living in Heart of the City: In 2001, HOCN produced a marketing video and distributed over 1,000 copies free of charge, made possible by public and private resources, as well as support from local leaders and organizations.
Brush Up Buffalo: In 2007, HOCN and Brush up Buffalo painted 13 homes in 1 day, with the help of over 100 volunteers.
Tree Planting: Over the years, HOCN has worked to reforest the Lower West Side by planting 299 trees over the years with the help of countless volunteers and community partners.
Community Planning: In 2013, HOCN began a community planning process with other community stakeholders. That June, a Community Planning Workshop was held with over 50 residents on the community to discuss priorities for the community.
HOCN also has a range of smaller neighborhood beautification projects throughout the year: from annual tree plantings to neighborhood cleanups, and working with the City of Buffalo’s Housing Court to address housing code violations to holding community forums about street maintenance and neighborhood violence. These efforts go a long way to create a more attractive community, affirm personal dignity and inspire neighborhood pride. These are not just short-term impacts, all of HOCN’s work is purposed to insure long-term revitalization. These smaller efforts weave together HOCN’s more prominent projects; they have a large impact on the reputation of HOCN in the neighborhood, and do a great deal to boost the community’s overall pride.