Trustees withdraw grant for housing project

The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees has officially rescinded a grant originally offered to a local nonprofit last year for an affordable housing project on Church Street.

During Monday night's regular meeting, trustees voted unanimously to withdraw the $400,000 Community Development Block Grant

Moments later, the board voted 3-1 to reallocate the funds for a future partnership with Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate dilapidated housing units in the village.

The grant was originally offered to the Adirondack Housing Development Corporation last year. The nonprofit planned to use the funds to purchase a former dormitory on Church Street currently owned by Paul Smith's College with the intent of creating 12-units of affordable housing.

Some trustees expressed concern that the project would create more tax-exempt properties for the village. The board also questioned AHDC's intent to provide affordable housing for nurses, physicians and teachers.

Late last year, trustees offered a proposal to the housing corporation seeking a payment in lieu of taxes for seven subsidized housing units. The remaining apartments would be fully taxable.

AHDC turned down that offer and made a counter-proposal, which was not discussed by the board during Monday night's meeting.

Trustees withdrew the grant funding, opting instead to pursue a partnership with Habitat for Humanity - which Trustee Jeff Branch says he fully supports.

"I think this is a great solution for the $400,000 grant," he said. "It's going to do several things. First of all, it's going to help upgrade and repair some of the dilapidated and broken down homes and get them back into the market. It's going to give couples - young and old - a chance not only to get decent housing, but it will give them a chance at decent housing with an endgame - which is called equity."

Branch adds that the partnership will hopefully be built so that the grant money will eventually be returned to the village, like a revolving fund.

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