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City considers designated developer for supportive housing on Broadway

A New York City-based national nonprofit provider of homeless and low-income housing is seeking to undertake its third project on Buffalo's East Side – and second in two years – to provide 60 more units of subsidized apartments for its core clientele.

City officials are considering whether to name HELP USA's HELP Development Corp. as "designated developer" for one year for a vacant city-owned lot at 330 Broadway, which the developer would acquire based on a fair-market appraisal. That would create a cluster of HELP properties within a two-block area.

According to city documents, the nonprofit's $20.2 million proposal involves the construction of a five-story concrete plank and wood-frame building, with "supportive housing" units aimed at homeless individuals and low-income families who need affordable places to live.

The project, dubbed HELP Buffalo III, would feature 31 one-bedroom, 20 two-bedroom and nine three-bedroom apartments, as well as a community room with a warming kitchen, on-site laundry, a children's playground, an outdoor garden space, management and supportive services offices, and on-site parking.

Of the total number of apartments, 30 would be reserved for homeless people with "serious mental illness and/or substance use disorder," and would be rented to those earning at or below 30 percent of the area median income, according to a document summary. The remainder would be rented to low-income families, which were not defined. All would be handicapped accessible.

The project would be financed through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the Housing Trust Fund administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program run by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

National Equity Fund would provide the equity capital for the tax credits, while the ESSHI program provides $588,452 annually for five years for half the units. HELP also intends to seek city HOME funds, as well as support from the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, and a property tax break.

The project, which would still require city Planning Board and other municipal approvals, would be designed by Flynn Battaglia Architects, with RP Oak Hill acting as general contractor.

The proposal was already reviewed by the Land Use Planning Committee, which determined that it "will substantiate the best use for the property." City agencies raised no objections, and the city's Office of Strategic Planning sought approval by the Common Council, which is now reviewing the request.

This would be the third residential facility constructed by HELP in Buffalo, within a very narrow geographic area. Founded in 1986, the nonprofit serves more than 8,000 people daily at over 50 programs and residences in four states, and has helped more than 375,000 men, women and children over its 30-year history, with more than 3,500 units of permanent and transitional housing.

The organization previously completed its first facility locally in June 1999, with the redevelopment of a historic building at 384 Hickory St. into the Hickory Street Apartments. That project, located near the intersection with Broadway and later called HELP Buffalo I, has 25 units of supportive housing for homeless singles.

Then, two years ago, the nonprofit developed another historic building at 368 Broadway – around the corner from the first one – into its new HELP Buffalo II, with 47 supportive housing units for families and homeless veterans.

The third HELP facility would be one block west on Broadway.

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