Mayor Andre Sayegh is shifting $1.11 million from federal housing grants, including from the city’s first-time homebuyer program, to Hinchliffe Stadium developers.
Sayegh shifted $914,452 from a “stalled” veteran’s housing project that the Paterson Housing Authority was supposed to undertake, $165,450 from the first-time homebuyer program, and the rest from housing construction funds, according to municipal records.
City Council members voted to approve the reallocations at 2 a.m. on Wednesday.
Councilman Luis Velez said the developers — Baye Adofo-Wilson of BAW Development and Joseph Portelli of RPM Development Group – are using the city like a “piggy bank.”
“We’ve already given a lot of things. We’ve given the ERG credits. We’ve given the land. We’ve given a PILOT,” said council president Flavio Rivera.
The city leased the land to the developers to build their housing complex. Sayegh earmarked $50 million in state tax credits for them. And the municipal government gave them a 30-year tax abatement.
Rivera questioned gutting the first-time homebuyer program.
“That sends the wrong message to the community,” said Rivera.
Community Development director Barbara McLennon said just one person took advantage of the first-time homebuyer program in two years.
“It is not being gutted. No one who applied qualified for the program. Therefore, if we didn’t transfer the allocation to the project, we would run the risk of losing the money,” said Sayegh on Wednesday afternoon.
“Maybe we didn’t advertise it enough,” said Rivera. “You mean to tell me that we cannot find people to take advantage of this first-time homebuyer program? It’s incredible. I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that at all.”
Homeownership rate is extremely low in Paterson – it stands at 26 percent. New Jersey average is 64 percent, according to federal government data.
Velez said he personally sent people to apply for the first-time homebuyer program. He said the city’s process was probably slow and cumbersome. He requested the administration provide a list of people who sought funds through the program so that he can make contact with them and find out why they didn’t complete the program to receive down payment assistance.
The program is designed to boost homeownership in the city.
Council members approved shifting the funds through two measures.
The first measure shifted $914,452 to the developers in a 4-3 vote. Al Abdelaziz, Gilman Choudhury, Ruby Cotton, and Lilisa Mimms voted in favor while Maritza Davila, Rivera, and Velez voted against.
The second measure shifted $200,132 to the developers in a 4-2 vote. Gilman Choudhury, Ruby Cotton, Lilisa Mimms, and Rivera voted in favor while Davila and Velez voted against.
The developers will use the $1.11 million to build the 75-unit senior housing and daycare center near the stadium.
Davila has said the developers are contributing very little of their own money towards the $76 million stadium restoration and housing project.
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