AUBURN, N.Y. /New York Netwire/ — On Monday, N.Y. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the grand opening of West Middle School Apartments in Auburn, the transformation of a vacant school building into a three-story development with 59 affordable apartments for area residents. 15 of the units will include mental health support services. The development complements Central New York Rising, the region’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative that is a blueprint for growing the economy and creating opportunity.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
“This new affordable housing development will provide quality housing to some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “The addition of West Middle School Apartments will keep Central New York’s economy rising and create strong, safe communities as we continue to build a better New York for all.”

Governor Cuomo’s commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing is reflected in the State’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving 112,000 units of affordable housing – enough to house the population of the City of Buffalo. The plan, which includes 6,000 units of supportive housing, is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multifamily and single-family housing community development, and rent stabilization.

West Middle School Apartments features a community room, laundry area, and on-site parking. Many original features of the school were preserved, including original artwork and lockers that line the halls. In addition, the school auditorium remains intact and is available for public events.

The supportive housing residents will receive on-site services from Unity House of Cayuga County, a nonprofit organization founded in 1977 and designed to enrich the lives of people with disabilities. Unity House’s headquarters have transitioned into new office space within the building as well.

The renovation meets the NYSERDA Low-Rise Residential New Construction standards as well as the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, which aligns affordable housing investment with sustainable building practices that make housing healthier and sustainable. The building is located at 217 Genesee Street in a residential neighborhood within walking distance of the city’s main commercial corridor and close to a Central New York Regional Transportation Authority bus stop.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal has provided $7.6 million in financing for the project in the form of tax exempt bond financing and subsidy loan. HCR’s annual Federal tax credit allocation generated $6.5 Million in tax credit equity. Additional capital funding includes $4.4 Million from the New York State Office of Mental Health, as well as Federal and State Historic Tax Credit equity. OMH is also providing long term debt service payments, start-up funds, and ongoing services and operating funding.

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “This project has transformed an abandoned school into affordable homes to enrich the community by expanding housing opportunities for all of Auburn’s residents. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, revitalization development projects like West Middle School are making New York State a more affordable place to call home, which strengthens our economy and will help Central New York rise.”

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “The 15 supported housing units in West Middle School Apartments will allow people with mental illness to live and thrive independently in their own homes, which is an important priority for the Office of Mental Health and for Governor Cuomo. We at OMH are proud to support this development with more than $4.4 million in capital funds as well as funding for behavioral healthcare services and operating costs.”

Two Plus Four President and Managing Member of Lakewood Development Susan Kimmel said, “This is a win -win situation for everyone. The school district is not burdened with an unneeded building, the city of Auburn gets a property back on the tax rolls, Unity House is able to expand its office space, and most importantly, those city residents who are most vulnerable are getting a fresh start through this new affordable housing option.”

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said, “This a transformative project for the City of Auburn. West Middle School Apartments replaces a vacant and unused building with attractive and affordable homes that will strengthen the neighborhood as a whole. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and all of our state and local partners for their hard work on this development that will improve the quality of life for residents in Auburn for years to come.”

Cayuga County Legislative Chair Patrick Mahunik said, “This development helps to meet the growing need for affordable housing in Cayuga County while also repurposing a vacant building for the benefit of all. Today’s ribbon cutting celebrates another step forward in the continued revitalization of Cayuga County and the Central New York region. We are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s commitment to investing in our region.”

Today’s announcement complements “Central NY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested nearly $4.7 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Central NY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs.