(August 12, 2021) -- New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas today announced the completion of a $23.2 million housing and healthcare development for seniors on Buffalo’s East Side. Westminster Commons includes 84 affordable and supportive apartments and the repurposed historic Westminster Settlement House.
Commissioner Visnauskas said, “We are proud to partner with the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers and Rochester’s Cornerstone Group on this $23 million development that will allow 84 senior households to age in place with dignity, in a comfortable and supportive environment. Our ongoing investment in Buffalo’s East Side is providing residents with more housing opportunities, greater access to essential services and stimulating commercial growth. Westminster Commons achieves that and will benefit the community for decades to come.”
Westminster Commons has 84 energy-efficient apartments for adults aged 55 and older. All apartments are affordable to households earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
Residents will have access to on-site supportive services, such as case management, benefits advocacy, financial management, job skills training and assistance with medical care. The Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Inc. is the supportive service provider and co-developer with Rochester’s Cornerstone Group. Forty apartments will be reserved for seniors with a history of mental illness.
The Westminster Settlement House, originally constructed in 1893, has been transformed into a community service facility with health-oriented services for both residents and the community. Services include a certified senior adult day care program, a federally qualified healthcare center, offices for the service provider, an Evans Bank branch, and community outreach space. The Westminster Community House is within walking distance to the residential building and near a public transit bus route, providing residents convenient and easy access to services.
State financing for Westminster Commons includes federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that generated about $14 million in equity and an additional $3 million in subsidy from HCR. The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance provided $3.4 million through the Homeless Housing Assistance Program. The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York provided $500,000 and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provided more than $70,000 in support. The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded Federal and State Historic Tax Credits that generated $927,000 in equity.
The New York State Office of Mental Health will administer project-based rental subsidies and services for the 26 supportive units funded through the Governor's Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and 14 more through OMH’s Scattered Site Supportive Housing Program. The city of Buffalo provided $350,000 in HOME funds.
Since 2011, New York State Homes and Community Renewal has invested more than $307 million in Buffalo which has created or preserved more than 3,200 affordable homes.
State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein said, “Our seniors deserve safe, affordable homes where they can readily access the services they can use to age in place. In addition to providing an excellent example of adaptive reuse of a historic building, Westminster Commons will provide the supportive services elderly Buffalo residents can rely on to live in independent settings as they age. This development, along with many others, demonstrates how the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program is helping communities across our state to address the root causes of housing insecurity.”
State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Safe and stable housing is critical for the recovery of individuals living with mental illness. The Office of Mental Health is committed to expanding these supportive housing opportunities throughout New York, providing residents an environment in which they can realize their hopes and dreams. OMH is proud to be a part of this exciting project in Buffalo.”
State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Helping to document and protect such historic resources as the Westminster Settlement House is a key part of our mission here at State Parks. Our Historic Preservation Division aided in getting this building listed to the state and national Register of Historic Places in 2018, opening the door to the availability of the rehabilitation tax credits that help make reuse of this significant building feasible. Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the State has approved use of commercial tax credits for more than 1,000 historic properties, driving more than $12 billion in private investment. When Westminster opened in 1894, its mission was to help immigrant arrivals to Buffalo find their place in the community. Now thanks in part to these tax credits, jobs have been supported in the rebirth of this building with a new mission to again serve its community, safeguarding its seniors and its health.”
In the western New York Region since 2011, historic tax credits have supported more than 134 commercial projects, totaling more than $1.1 billion in projected investment. A study by the National Park Service details the impact of the tax credit on jobs and tax revenue in New York State. For the five-year period from 2015 - 2019, historic tax credit program activity in New York State generated 67,578 jobs nationally and more than $195 million in local, state and federal taxes.
Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO at NYSERDA, said, "Completion of the Westminster Commons housing development brings supportive and affordable housing to seniors in the Buffalo area who will enjoy healthier homes and energy costs savings from energy efficiency features incorporated throughout. Projects like this demonstrate that historic buildings can be brought up to higher standards to reduce emissions from the state's existing building stock as we continue to seek out ways to stop and reverse the impacts of climate change."
Chandra Redfern, Chief Executive Officer, Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Inc., said, “We are thankful for the assistance and funding we have received in helping a long-time vision come full circle. We want residents to feel that they are part of a thriving community; a community that provides affordable and quality housing options, is walkable, and where senior residents have access to medical care and other services that allow them to live a quality life.”