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Episcopal senior housing project stuck in bureaucratic purgatory

Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates

After a lot of neighborhood opposition, City Hall has approved turning the old Ascension Church in Buffalo into senior housing. However, the project is now stuck in the complicated process of not-for-profit housing.

The housing project is pegged at over $7 million for 28 units at North Street and Linwood Avenue in Buffalo's Allentown neighborhood. After the city Preservation Board denied the project, the Common Council in February overrode that denial. Then it stalled in the complicated and elaborate process of the variety of financing sources that have to be put together to build something.

On Tuesday, the Episcopal Diocese asked the city Planning Board for a one-year extension of its approval while financing is completed. There wasn't a quorum for a decision.

Lawyer Marc Romanowski said the problem revolves around state low-income housing tax credits, which are only approved once each year.

"There's grants and other financing that's part of the project and it's a calendar year issue and we received our approval towards the end of last year and weren't in a position to complete applications, get all financing put together to make the timing of that," Romanowski said, "and we're going forward with that process now and fully expect it to come forward this year."

Romanowski said the diocese is going forward with the project for those low-income people over 55 because there is serious need.

"We expect the project to be successful and there's still a need for low income, especially low-income senior housing, in the city," he said.

If Albany gives the tax credit for the project, the plan is for construction to start next summer and take about a year to complete.The design calls for a new building and renovation and conversion of existing buildings.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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