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New tax incentives should encourage market rate housing in downtown

Date: 12/12/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — Mayor Alex Morse is seeking to motivate owners of vacant buildings downtown to consider developing market housing and believes the new Center City Housing Incentive Program will help.

The City Council recent passed the measure, which offers developers two incentives when rehabilitating properties into multi-unit, market rate housing: a local real estate tax exemption on added value and a state tax credit for 10 percent of eligible costs, up to $1 million.

Holyoke is eligible for the program, which is administrated through the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, because of its Gateway City status.

The Holyoke program would encourage new market-rate housing in existing buildings where upper floors are currently vacant. The incentives would be available for projects in South Holyoke, The Flats, Downtown/Prospect heights and Churchill neighborhoods as designated in the city's Urban Renewal Plan.

Morse told Reminder Publications the incentives "are essentially a way to mitigate the risk" of development.

The developers of new housing would receive a 100 percent property tax exemption for the first 10 years after the housing is completed and might receive a greater incentive based on the impact of the new housing.

The tax incentive plan comes with other slated improvements in the downtown area that include the second part of the Holyoke Canalwalk, the construction of a new train stop, the renovations of Veterans' and Pulaski parks.

Morse believes the additional available housing will attract new residents and prove the city's "strength through diversity in downtown."

He added there is a demand for market rate housing in Holyoke.

The program will encourage owners who are "sitting" on building to redevelop them, Morse said.

The mayor added, "The governor and his administration have truly worked to help Gateway Cities like Holyoke to have the tools necessary to make change. I would like to thank the Department of Housing and Urban Development for working hard to make this a useful tool and everyone at the offices of Community Development and Planning & Economic Development for shaping the details behind the local incentive. We look forward to getting started."