Syracuse Housing Authority attempts to fund senior housing renovations at Eastwood Heights
The City of Syracuse and Syracuse Housing Authority are trying to improve the quality of more than four dozen affordable senior housing units at Eastwood Heights. Syracuse Common Councilors Monday cleared the way for the SHA to pursue a funding agreement.
The building is 100 years old and hasn't seen its fair share of repairs since 1989. Syracuse Housing Authority Director Bill Simmons said the roof leaks and the windows, electrical and mechanical systems are severely outdated. But the cost to make those renovations has jumped from $16 million to $22 million in just a matter of months.
Simmons told the Syracuse Common Council on Monday he worries that the SHA may have to limit its scope of repairs to accommodate the increasing costs.
"We're trying to make the bathrooms more ADA accessible," Simmons said. "We're looking to make some improvements in the hallways with the lighting and the floors, so it's not so institutional, and putting in handrails so that seniors can age in place. There are a significant number of amenities that the seniors wanted, even a physical fitness center, but if the price holds with this increase in cost, lot of things are going to have to get cut out."
The SHA is partnering with Rochester's Cornerstone Group to find a shelter rent agreement through the state. They'll need enough money within the agreement to renovate the 49 units and perhaps add four more. Syracuse Commissioner of Assessment Matt Ojay said the city is looking to eventually sell the property.
"We have tentatively assured SHA and its partner as part of their funding application that they will ultimately have control of the site," Ojay said. "We've been leasing to the SHA for $1 since 1989. We're happy to dispose of it; They are better suited to use this asset than we are."
Common Councilor Pat Hogan said the SHA can't afford to buy and make the needed renovations.
"They had leased that property for $1 a year from us, and now we're asking SHA, which has limited means, for $1.4 million," Hogan said. "Give me a break."
Hogan would rather the city cede the property.
Ojay said it's the city's responsibility to seek some return.
"We think they can finance the purchase price as part of any funding agreement they reach," Ojay said. "We are certainly of the mind that we owe it to the taxpayers of the City of Syracuse that a city asset of some value should not be disposed of unless we can earn back the fair market value of that as determined by a third party."
Ojay said talks are ongoing, and nothing has been decided regarding the sale or the price.