Rochester residents will have new housing opportunities due to the completion of a new affordable housing development, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Valued as a $30.3 million project, the development is located in downtown Rochester, in a space known as Sibley Square. The Sibley Square redevelopment is not limited to apartments, though those that are included are classified as mixed-income. It also includes retail, office, and commercial spaces, ultimately containing 280 individual construction projects. Ultimate, 104 of these 280 apartments are considered affordable and workspace apartments, while the remaining 176 apartments are considered affordable and market rate apartments, along with the aforementioned retail, commercial, and office spaces.</p.
This project is meant to be a part of the larger “Finger Lakes Forward” initiative, which is a comprehensive strategy that Governor Cuomo and other leaders have pushed to revitalize stagnating communities, as well as the surrounding economies. Sibley Square is considered a historic location, and by revitalizing these historic communities rather than building entirely new communities, Rochester is able to maintain some of its history while at the same time keeping housing and commercial spaces more affordable for those that have lived in the downtown Rochester area prior to the redevelopment project. While some redevelopment projects pose the risk of making the revitalized area too expensive for long-term residents, the goals with the Finger Lakes Forward and Sibley Square initiatives are to maintain affordability while boosting the economy. This is why a number of different apartment types were made available, with some being targeted towards lower income individuals, while others are set at more of a standard market rate. The housing development portion of the project also offers a number of other different advantages to residents, making housing opportunities available that previously were not widely present in the downtown Rochester Sibley Square area.
Opportunities Available For Low-Income Residents
While some housing redevelopment projects are critiqued due to the fact that they do not offer opportunities for low-income community residents, this is fortunately not the case for the Sibley Square project. Low-income residents of Rochester may in the past have struggled to be approved for newer apartments. Something of a cyclical issue lies in the fact that a person’s credit score often affects their ability to be approved for a home loan or even a rental agreement. A lower income can make it difficult for individuals to pay their bills promptly. As 35% of an individual’s credit score depends on how quickly that person pays their bills, those with lower incomes often have lower credit scores, and therefore find it difficult to be approved for a home loan or rental agreement. Apartments and other housing projects targeted towards those with lower incomes therefore also are available to those with lower credit scores and are accessible in a way that other housing projects are not. Affordable housing is more important now than ever before, due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for some households to afford the properties that they previously resided upon. Fortunately, New York state has made affordable housing a priority since 2011. During that year, the state began its efforts to either create or preserve 7,500 homes in the Finger Lakes, ultimately investing over $627 million, with $278 million going to Rochester alone.
Specifically speaking, the project within Sibley Square is called Liberty Lofts. New York State has been able to utilize the Historic Tax Credits program, which has been used to both redevelop and revitalize underutilized historic buildings. Not only are projects like Liberty Lofts more affordable due to programs like this; they are also more sustainable. Rather than expanding an already developed area further and potentially wasting both land and resources, Rochester is making already available, ignored or downgraded buildings better and up to the standards that residents deserve. However, this is not the only way in which the project is sustainable.
Creating A More Sustainable Rochester
Sustainability and efficiency are crucial for many development projects moving forward into the future. Not only do they tend to last longer; they are also often less expensive and more environmentally friendly than less sustainable and efficient projects. Affordability being key, the less these projects cost the state or city, the more affordable they will be to residents.
As previously mentioned, Liberty Lofts is inherently more sustainable because it is a redevelopment of existing historic buildings in Sibley Square. The housing development also possesses other features that were intentionally chosen to create a more efficient and affordable space for residents. These include low-flow Water Sense labeled plumbing fixtures, which alone are hugely important. On average, the typical American family will use over 300 gallons of water per day at home. They may use even more in light of the fact that many families are currently spending more time in their homes. These plumbing fixtures will make the properties more water efficient, and ultimately families will both save water and money.
Other features include low-VOC products including sealants, paints, and flooring; LED lighting; Energy Star appliances; and ASHRAE standards 6.21 level ventilation. These all were chosen in an effort to create a more energy efficient structure for residents. Many of these selections were fairly straightforward, as are most efforts to create a more sustainable and energy efficient housing development. For example, the right roofing material can cut a home’s energy needs by as much as 30%. Renovations like these create a more affordable building through less energy usage, and allow residents to enjoy other amenities like a business center, children’s play area, community room, laundry facilities, and a fitness area.
Liberty Lofts in Sibley Square is meant to make downtown Rochester more affordable and accessible for low income residents, as well as mixed income residents that can afford some of its more costly options. Ideally, this will lead not only to a diverse and flourishing community within downtown Rochester, but also a boosted economy during a time in which not only New York state but the country at large is otherwise depressed.