In a flood zone, new Fairmont Park apartment complex aims for affordable, disaster-proof housing
BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Local officials and developers say new affordable apartments are breathing life into one Broome County neighborhood.
Many households moved out of Fairmont Park, an area of the Town of Union, after flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee devastated homes there a decade ago.
A new 34-unit apartment complex, developed by Lakewood Development and the S.E.P.P Group, now stands on that site.
Its developers boast the flood-proofing measures that were taken to limit future damage to homes in the neighborhood.
Marguerite Tolson-Jackson moved into one of the Fairmont Park Apartments shortly after they opened this summer. Even months later, Tolson-Jackson said her home smells brand new.
“It’s just so peaceful and relaxing over here,” Tolson-Jackson said, looking out at her backyard.
Tolson-Jackson moved to Fairmont Park from the Town & Country Apartments in Binghamton, which she said were more crowded and plagued with frequent repairs and violence.
Tolson-Jackson said visiting her new home, even before they moved in, brought her a sense of peace.
“Even when we didn’t have any furniture in it and I would come over and look at it, you walk through the door and this feeling of calmness would come over you,” Tolson-Jackson said, “compared to over there in Town & Country, where any minute you got to hit the floor at the sound of a bullet going off.”
Rent at the Fairmont Park Apartments is fixed to tenants’ incomes so that no household will spend more than 30% of their income on rent.
Tolson-Jackson, for instance, has been paying $325 a month, which she said is roughly the same as what she paid at her last home.
According to John Bernardo, executive director at the S.E.P.P. Group, each apartment has been designated for households at or below specific income levels.
Of the 17 three-bedroom apartments, three of them are reserved for households at 30% of the area median income. Another three are for households that earn at or below 50% of the area median income, while nine are for families who make at most 60% of the area median income.
“Every one of them is set, and they’re going to be set for the next thirty years,” Bernardo said.
The breakdown of income limits for two-bedroom apartments, Bernardo explained, were similarly constructed and cannot change even if tenants relocate.
“It’s fair, and that’s the idea behind fair housing. Make sure the housing is affordable at appropriate levels,” Bernardo added.
Local and county officials hope the apartments at Fairmont Park can bring stability and life to the neighborhood.
The effects of the flood are still visible around the community. Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said rebuilding there has been a challenge.
Broome County saw severe flooding in 2006 and 2011. In the time since, more than 200 homes between Fairmont Park and other neighborhoods in the Town of Union have been sold and demolished as part of a floodplain buyout program.
“For the past 15 years we have struggled with development in flood prone areas,” Garnar said. “As everybody knows, we’ve been hit with two historic major floods, and at the same time we’ve seen an increased need for housing, especially affordable housing units.”
The 34 units at the Fairmont Park Apartments are designed to withstand disasters. Each one is elevated, and all living spaces and appliances sit above ground. A flood wall now stands on nearby Watson Boulevard.
Bernardo said he hopes that will limit the extent of any future damage from flooding that occurs.
Partners in the $11.7 million apartment development include the New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the Housing Trust Fund, Broome County, the Town of Union and NBT Bank.