One of Ten in Masten Park

While paying a visit to The Foundry on Northampton Street last weekend, I came across this house located directly across the street that was in the middle of a serious renovation. The house is one of the ten houses being rehabilitated by Belmont Shelter in Masten Park with a total budget is $3.5 million (contractor is Burke Brothers). The house seen here was headed for demolition, but was eventually removed from the demo list when some pressure was applied by concerned parties. The Victorian house was in fair condition.
Mike Gainer wrote about this in a blog post at Net Positive - The article is posted below, along with an image of what the house once looked like…
And Another Kind of Green – Michael Gainer
Another example–I live two doors down from a local house renovation, a project I’m ecstatic is happening. It’s exactly the type of project we want to support. Housing redevelopment, on the East Side, utilizing existing housing stock, taking a house off the City’s demolition list, and making sure the final product will fit nicely within the existing neighborhood–these are all tremendous things. They’re rehabilitating nine similar homes in our humble Masten Park neighborhood and I’m undoubtedly happy it’s happening here.
Gainer-House-Buffalo-No-New.jpg
That being said, I learned the other day the budget was approximately $350,000 per home. Again, it’s difficult for me to understand how this is a sensible expenditure, particularly in a neighborhood where housing values average $35-$40,000.
I understand the subsidy system, I understand the motivation, I strongly support local jobs, I’m even hopeful this investment will create other economic benefits at the neighborhood level. All the contractors are doing excellent work, but when I hear the price tag, I can’t help but dream about the possibilities of how to spend three million dollars in one neighborhood, SENSIBLY, if we were given free innovative reign.

About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

50 comments
MrGreenJeans
MrGreenJeans

Most 'workers' applying siding are only a short step above morons. If you don't stand over them & dictate exactly HOW to do it, they will f*** it up.

Orgs such as "PUSH" are a complete waste of time, energy, and money, even if they generate enough income for their ostensibly heroic founders. Follow the money & see the truth.

MrGreenJeans
MrGreenJeans

Most 'workers' applying siding are only a short step above morons. If you don't stand over them & dictate exactly HOW to do it, they will f*** it up.

Orgs such as "PUSH" are a complete waste of time, energy, and money, even if they generate enough income for their ostensibly heroic founders. Follow the money & see the truth.

TheRealBuffaloBill
TheRealBuffaloBill

When I worked some small scale government procurement projects we found the general rule was it cots 3 times for the government to purchase something readily available in the public sector. This was driven by the massive bureaucracy of purchasing, as we'll as purchasing rules (minority, women or veteran owned), made in America clauses, meeting government standards on things that are realistically trivial. We would end up with a chair that cost $350 and the same chair would be $125 at Wal-Mart. I would think the buildings run into the same issues, just the lead paint seems like it would require them to ripe everything out and hazmat it. That alone must cost 50k. If they could just grant money directly to people, and give them a waiver on some of the local labor laws you could get 3 times as many homes done, and likely have an owner who was deeply invested with sweet equity.

TheRealBuffaloBill
TheRealBuffaloBill

When I worked some small scale government procurement projects we found the general rule was it cots 3 times for the government to purchase something readily available in the public sector. This was driven by the massive bureaucracy of purchasing, as we'll as purchasing rules (minority, women or veteran owned), made in America clauses, meeting government standards on things that are realistically trivial. We would end up with a chair that cost $350 and the same chair would be $125 at Wal-Mart. I would think the buildings run into the same issues, just the lead paint seems like it would require them to ripe everything out and hazmat it. That alone must cost 50k. If they could just grant money directly to people, and give them a waiver on some of the local labor laws you could get 3 times as many homes done, and likely have an owner who was deeply invested with sweet equity.

brownteeth
brownteeth

To be devil's advocate, you can join a union or work in the trades but the "working conditions" can be tough and you will likely be laid off for about 3 months on average per year. Not to mention you'll have the pleasure of working with guys who will treat you like an idiot if you're not tough as nails and automatically know everything. Still, I agree these wages for some trades are way too high.

rpm40
rpm40

$60 an hour?? I just passed the NY bar and secured a full time job, and I can tell you I'd flip if I was getting $60 an hour. And those jobs don't have huge student loans to repay..

rpm40
rpm40

$60 an hour?? I just passed the NY bar and secured a full time job, and I can tell you I'd flip if I was getting $60 an hour. And those jobs don't have huge student loans to repay..

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Prevailing wage rates aren't the whole story here. Part of the problem is the fact that much unnecessary work is mandated (and paid for) under these funding programs, and they don't reflect community values and character. A common complaint I've heard about these projects, going back years, is that they essentially strip a house and turn it into a new house (consistent with the comments here). That's not what we need. We need to make houses habitable, safe, and energy efficient.

We also need to reflect community values -- removing the architectural character of our neighborhoods doesn't do that. Using vinyl siding doesn't do that. I once had the privilege of talking with Lois Gibbs, and asked what her next environmental campaign would be. She told me she was looking at going after vinyl, which she described as a substance having one of the worst environmental impacts over its life cycle that humanity has created. Refurbishing existing windows, where possible, also reflects community values. Also, using deconstruction & salvage for elements that do need to be removed.

Perhaps most importantly, the communities where these projects are being done are full of other houses which dearly need work, and also full of people who also dearly need work -- and a marketable trade. These state/federally funded projects upstate should include a component for apprenticeship for community members. These apprentices, while also learning more advanced skills, could also tackle work which might not make economic sense to do at prevailing wage rates: properly removing lead paint from & refurbishing existing siding (so it's not just wholesale torn off & sent to the landfill), refurbishing existing wood flooring (where possible), deconstruction & salvage, etc.

The other thing that needs to change: there needs to be real community notification about these projects, so that people in the community can have real input. Instead of just finding out about them when they're already underway.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Prevailing wage rates aren't the whole story here. Part of the problem is the fact that much unnecessary work is mandated (and paid for) under these funding programs, and they don't reflect community values and character. A common complaint I've heard about these projects, going back years, is that they essentially strip a house and turn it into a new house (consistent with the comments here). That's not what we need. We need to make houses habitable, safe, and energy efficient.

We also need to reflect community values -- removing the architectural character of our neighborhoods doesn't do that. Using vinyl siding doesn't do that. I once had the privilege of talking with Lois Gibbs, and asked what her next environmental campaign would be. She told me she was looking at going after vinyl, which she described as a substance having one of the worst environmental impacts over its life cycle that humanity has created. Refurbishing existing windows, where possible, also reflects community values. Also, using deconstruction & salvage for elements that do need to be removed.

Perhaps most importantly, the communities where these projects are being done are full of other houses which dearly need work, and also full of people who also dearly need work -- and a marketable trade. These state/federally funded projects upstate should include a component for apprenticeship for community members. These apprentices, while also learning more advanced skills, could also tackle work which might not make economic sense to do at prevailing wage rates: properly removing lead paint from & refurbishing existing siding (so it's not just wholesale torn off & sent to the landfill), refurbishing existing wood flooring (where possible), deconstruction & salvage, etc.

The other thing that needs to change: there needs to be real community notification about these projects, so that people in the community can have real input. Instead of just finding out about them when they're already underway.

brownteeth
brownteeth

I just read your comment after posting mine regarding prevailing wage and saw that I wrote almost the same thing. As of 09-2012 the base pay for a laborer is $25 plus $29 for benefits. Albeit that is commercial work, there is a lower "residential" prevailing rate depending on the project.

What is fair pay for the trades? I'd say that wage rate is fine for an electrician or iron worker but for a job unloading materials, sweeping up, or moving building materials around a job site I think it's way too high.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Exactly, hate seeing j-channel used as a detail at the window. Windows need to be framed to respect the proportion of the overall design. One other area that is generally ignored is the frieze board, again should be 5/4 stock, not j-channel as is the usual treatment.

brownteeth
brownteeth

Prevailing wage rates are sucking money away from completing many other projects. On average they cost 30% more than privately funded projects. I am totally for paying a fair market wage for the trades, especially highly skilled or dangerous work, but some of it is absurd. The wage rate with benefits for a "laborer" is around $60/hr. Now there is a wide range of job duties a "laborer" performs but I think that's a bit high vs the private sector.

brownteeth
brownteeth

There's nothing wrong with properly wrapping 5/4 stock with aluminum to add the depth to the window casing. Or even using Fypon trim which I would expect at this price point. There are some decent vinyl siding products out there but like anything it comes down to the level of detail and craftsmanship of how you install it.

brownteeth
brownteeth

There's nothing wrong with properly wrapping 5/4 stock with aluminum to add the depth to the window casing. Or even using Fypon trim which I would expect at this price point. There are some decent vinyl siding products out there but like anything it comes down to the level of detail and craftsmanship of how you install it.

grad94
grad94

for what its worth, when that budget is spent on high construction wages, deserved or not, rather than materials, the money stays in the local economy longer and has a greater multiplier effect.

having said that, i still wish that these organizations were specifying fiber cement board over vinyl. it lasts decades, holds a paint job for ages without peeling, offers more fire resistance, and doesn't cheapen the appearance.

grad94
grad94

for what its worth, when that budget is spent on high construction wages, deserved or not, rather than materials, the money stays in the local economy longer and has a greater multiplier effect.

having said that, i still wish that these organizations were specifying fiber cement board over vinyl. it lasts decades, holds a paint job for ages without peeling, offers more fire resistance, and doesn't cheapen the appearance.

whatever
whatever

falling>"How is it that the private sector can pay half the price for the same labor the government pays twice for?"

Greed.

I'll leave it to each reader to decide whether the greed is on the govt-ordered prevailing wage side of that question for mandating double the private sector wage, or on the private sector side for paying half of the prevailing wage.

We can all agree to disagree about that depending on our economic philosophy, while agreeing the answer is greed.

buffalofalling
buffalofalling

"Prevailing wage rates anyone?"

Likely spot on. Construction projects funded by the government are way too costly and fiscally insane due to prevailing wage. It unnecessarily drives up all cosst for government work. Last I checked the prevailing rate for a general laborer was in the mid- to upper $40/hr range (without benefits, meaning they just get the flat salary). However, that same laborer is likely getting no fringe benefits on a non-prevailing wage job and making a salary in the mid-teens.

How is it that the private sector can pay half the price for the same labor the government pays twice for?

Good story today in the BN about a Clarence Soccer group that has determined that its cheaper to get a private loan at a higher interest rate than let the Town bond the money simply because the saving would be overrun by the govt requirement to use prevailing wage.

I'm all for a living, decent wage. But prevailing wage artifically drives the prices up and when the govt pays more than the free market does, something is wrong.

buffalofalling
buffalofalling

"Prevailing wage rates anyone?"

Likely spot on. Construction projects funded by the government are way too costly and fiscally insane due to prevailing wage. It unnecessarily drives up all cosst for government work. Last I checked the prevailing rate for a general laborer was in the mid- to upper $40/hr range (without benefits, meaning they just get the flat salary). However, that same laborer is likely getting no fringe benefits on a non-prevailing wage job and making a salary in the mid-teens.

How is it that the private sector can pay half the price for the same labor the government pays twice for?

Good story today in the BN about a Clarence Soccer group that has determined that its cheaper to get a private loan at a higher interest rate than let the Town bond the money simply because the saving would be overrun by the govt requirement to use prevailing wage.

I'm all for a living, decent wage. But prevailing wage artifically drives the prices up and when the govt pays more than the free market does, something is wrong.

grad94
grad94

i'm sure you're right about all the complexities and requirements. i just wish that for $350k they'd use fiber cement siding instead of vinyl.

grad94
grad94

i'm sure you're right about all the complexities and requirements. i just wish that for $350k they'd use fiber cement siding instead of vinyl.

JMc44113
JMc44113

Wow-once again armchair developers who don't do this for a living complain...never ceases to amaze me on here. Well even for-profit developers can't avoid Davis Bacon rates (which jumped big time last month jeopardizing lots of projects) if its HUD, certain tax credit, LIHTC, NSP, HOME or other type of builder programs. Most of these only work layering several programs. Credible developers must renovate using architects, engineers, provide ESAs, title clearing, etc to meet lending requirements. Legal fees, appraisals, green features (Ev3, Enterprise, Leed, etc) etc. add on top of this. This is not a single owner-occupied renovation. Preservation doesn't always make sense- you're right! I'd opt to build new ones but people here would have complained if torn down as well. Welcome to Buffalo where everyone has the right answer you must follow and it will always be opposite the one you choose!

JMc44113
JMc44113

Wow-once again armchair developers who don't do this for a living complain...never ceases to amaze me on here. Well even for-profit developers can't avoid Davis Bacon rates (which jumped big time last month jeopardizing lots of projects) if its HUD, certain tax credit, LIHTC, NSP, HOME or other type of builder programs. Most of these only work layering several programs. Credible developers must renovate using architects, engineers, provide ESAs, title clearing, etc to meet lending requirements. Legal fees, appraisals, green features (Ev3, Enterprise, Leed, etc) etc. add on top of this. This is not a single owner-occupied renovation. Preservation doesn't always make sense- you're right! I'd opt to build new ones but people here would have complained if torn down as well. Welcome to Buffalo where everyone has the right answer you must follow and it will always be opposite the one you choose!

The Boss
The Boss

Burke is another name for Rocco, something stinks here

The Boss
The Boss

Burke is another name for Rocco, something stinks here

ladyinwhite
ladyinwhite

Good for the builders. They are milking it for all it's worth probably to the tune of 250 thousand or more per home and using shoddy products to boot. Seriously, such a waste of money. What idiot oversees these projects? So much more can/should be done with 3 million.

Being a low income project you can bet they will look like crap within 5 years, add no value to the neighborhood or show any sort of return at any time at all.

If the medical corridor was to transform this neck of the woods that boom would of started ages ago. Get your head out of the sand.

rpm40
rpm40

It sounds harsh, but I've been through a few of these rehabs, and it's true- they really suck all the charm and craftsmanship out of the homes by the time they're done. Often they look just like new builds inside, and sometimes even out.

rpm40
rpm40

It sounds harsh, but I've been through a few of these rehabs, and it's true- they really suck all the charm and craftsmanship out of the homes by the time they're done. Often they look just like new builds inside, and sometimes even out.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

I came to Buffalo to work on a demonstration project showing that houses could be rehabbed for a much lower cost than these state/federally funded projects. For that single-house project, I worked on some of the interior finish. In the end, it was sold to a first-time homebuyer who is an asset to the neighborhood, for the cost of purchasing the house from the demolition list, materials, and carrying costs getting the house to the sale point. The new owner has continued to make upgrades. Sale price? About what someone might pay for a decent new car. A great starter house at a great starter price.

Some of the methods and arrangements used could be scaled up or used in other situations, but not all. But the point is that the "funded" model, which inevitably costs 6-figures per house rehab, needs to be replaced with a much more sustainable model. In a city which still needs much of its housing stock substantially upgraded, yet whose home values generally don't justify six-figure expenditures, the job simply can't get done using that model.

What I find most disheartening about this, is that this has long been a known issue in housing and community development circles in Upstate NY, where organizations & governments have to use these statewide programs developed in a "one size fits all" manner designed more for Downstate needs & home values. Despite that, we still haven't developed an effective new model for Upstate cities. What are people waiting for?!

The closest we come in Buffalo to a more sustainable model is the work of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity (whose Buffalo chapter has the distinction of doing more rehabs than new builds) and West Side Ministries. Also, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative has recently gotten recognition for development of a "braided" model for combining multiple funding sources for home improvements related to energy efficiency and lead-hazard abatement. What we need is a model that blends the best of all these ideas, with perhaps some new ones. We need to prove it, then scale it up, and we need to do it very soon. The way we're going now, with projects like this, we're wasting too much time, money, and rehabbable housing stock. AND we're not creating the jobs, building the skillsets, and reducing unemployement that we could do with a larger-scale, sustainably funded approach.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

I came to Buffalo to work on a demonstration project showing that houses could be rehabbed for a much lower cost than these state/federally funded projects. For that single-house project, I worked on some of the interior finish. In the end, it was sold to a first-time homebuyer who is an asset to the neighborhood, for the cost of purchasing the house from the demolition list, materials, and carrying costs getting the house to the sale point. The new owner has continued to make upgrades. Sale price? About what someone might pay for a decent new car. A great starter house at a great starter price.

Some of the methods and arrangements used could be scaled up or used in other situations, but not all. But the point is that the "funded" model, which inevitably costs 6-figures per house rehab, needs to be replaced with a much more sustainable model. In a city which still needs much of its housing stock substantially upgraded, yet whose home values generally don't justify six-figure expenditures, the job simply can't get done using that model.

What I find most disheartening about this, is that this has long been a known issue in housing and community development circles in Upstate NY, where organizations & governments have to use these statewide programs developed in a "one size fits all" manner designed more for Downstate needs & home values. Despite that, we still haven't developed an effective new model for Upstate cities. What are people waiting for?!

The closest we come in Buffalo to a more sustainable model is the work of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity (whose Buffalo chapter has the distinction of doing more rehabs than new builds) and West Side Ministries. Also, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative has recently gotten recognition for development of a "braided" model for combining multiple funding sources for home improvements related to energy efficiency and lead-hazard abatement. What we need is a model that blends the best of all these ideas, with perhaps some new ones. We need to prove it, then scale it up, and we need to do it very soon. The way we're going now, with projects like this, we're wasting too much time, money, and rehabbable housing stock. AND we're not creating the jobs, building the skillsets, and reducing unemployement that we could do with a larger-scale, sustainably funded approach.

Jesse
Jesse

Bah, a dump like this 'restored'? "Victorian"? Sorry excuse for a rehab...

Jesse
Jesse

Bah, a dump like this 'restored'? "Victorian"? Sorry excuse for a rehab...

Pubmoney1
Pubmoney1

Well said medea. Social/economic justice scam through a home building front.

Pubmoney1
Pubmoney1

Well said medea. Social/economic justice scam through a home building front.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

Simple: follow the money.

I hear Burke's workers are removing architectural elements (glass, etc) from these homes.

Having said all this, I am glad to see the houses restored rather than demo'd.

Tim
Tim

Well said. I'd like to read mike puma's report on where the money is spent. It might be legit somehow but sheesh.

Mike Puma
Mike Puma

I'm preparing a follow up post with these questions answered. Expect it within the next two days.

Buffaloian
Buffaloian

$350,000. each?

Hell, just level it and build a suburban drywall box. What a joke.

medea
medea

I find it interesting that people would consider where the money goes and how it is used. PUSH has done 2 buildings thus far and have you looked at their 990"s? They spend well over $350,000 a house and have had to learn as they go about construction. Many of these projects are wonderful but they are in no way "sustainable"projects as their mission statement declares, or a process that can be easily "replicated" or one that employs "poor people" to do the work.

I give kudos to to Homefront, they've renovated 4 houses in the time it took PUSH to evaluate a structure. The men who work for Lamparelli are not "from the hood" and it's a running joke that many of the men (no women contractors) can retire after the PUSH projects because they are so lucrative.

I think because PUSH is the liberal wet dream, nobody challenges their management of funds as they continue to learn how to manage a construction project.

hamp
hamp

Even if you use vinyl, you can put trim around the windows. And it's not that expensive.

rpm40
rpm40

Can anyone shed more light on where all the money goes? $350k per house does seem pretty astronomical. I know there might be expenses for lead and asbestos abatement, but still...

burbsarenotbuffalo
burbsarenotbuffalo

whyyyyyyyyy vinyl siding... it makes my heart hurt when I see it. It takes so much away from any house.

sweeper716
sweeper716

350 grand on those houses is absolutely ludicrous. I'm sure they'll be gorgeous, but even when they're done they can't possibly be worth more than 100k, and for that neighborhood that's a stretch. And everyone wonders why New York/the federal government is broke.

And even still, I'd love to know what exactly it is they're doing for 350k. I'm an electrician, and am around a lot of rehabs. Even on the bigger projects where the entire place is gutted to stud, new roof, electrical and plumbing, etc. the total contract isn't even half that generally.

Up and coming
Up and coming

Oxford is spot on. I almost bought two houses there about 5 years ago. My plans were to remodel one and keep the other one as an investment property. In 5 years most of these areas will be gone as people are starting to realize the ROI they can get from restoring these old houses.

paulsobo
paulsobo

Id say that the 2 neighborhoods that I expect to be up and coming.

The OXFORD neighborhood sandwiched between Main and Linwood by Millard Fillmore Gates. There are incredibly beautiful houses in that area but it has languished for decades.

MASTEN DISTRICT is all but assured. Its within walking distance to the fastest growing employment center in Western NY and in Buffalo (Life Sciences Campus).

I would expect, as the Life Sciences Campus grows, the HUMBOLDT PARK DISTRICT will follow. Of course, ending the Kensington at Jefferson/Best and making Jefferson/Best with a parkway entrance/exit to downtown rather than having Elm, Oak and Goodell as the entrance to the Life Sciences Campus would allow this to happen faster.

GRANT would be in far better condition and its future far brighter if not for the rejection by Buffalo State by current and prior leadership such as Muriel Howard.

Up and coming
Up and coming

"That being said, I learned the other day the budget was approximately $350,000 per home. Again, it's difficult for me to understand how this is a sensible expenditure, particularly in a neighborhood where housing values average $35-$40,000."

My thoughts exactly. I bet a private developer could do 10 houses for 500k or even lower.

© 2014 Hyperlocal Media. All Rights Reserved.