Colonie, New York Not for Profit Housing – PR at its Best or Worst?

Rehabilitation Support Services

Rehabilitation Support Services is a not for profit company that builds housing complexes, generally for the elderly, homeless, or disabled (physically or mentally) in the State of New York. They have built over 100 complexes in the last twenty or more years in the New York area.

Colonie, New York is a suburb north of Albany and has about 80,000 residents. Until after WWII, it was mainly a series of connected farms. By 1980, the area had gone through extensive suburban development and laid claim to several large highways going through or near Colonie.

Rehabilitation Support Services and Colonie are the two main characters of this story. In 2007 the town approved zoning for a housing complex called Swatling Acres. That approval was recently revoked by the town council. Here’s the problem: RSS has obtained funding on the basis of the prior approval and now feels the town has behaved unfairly toward them. The town says the approval was granted to a different party and that RSS never made an application for approval. RSS then said they had been told they only needed to submit an amendment, but the city says that a new application would be needed. Since RSS obtained state funding by stating that approval had already been granted, they have now filed suit against the city for the legal side of this issue to be settled.

But, in the meantime, zoning changed for the location which is no longer approved for housing. Rehabilitation Support Services and others believe the city is unfairly applying land use laws for reasons not related to the public’s best interest.

The proposed housing facility would offer 20 apartments for seniors, 50 for those with disabilities and mental illnesses, and 54 for low-income workers. Many residents of Colonie feel the housing is needed. RSS has created a website for raising public awareness and is also running large print ads and online articles as part of their PR campaign.

City officials have declared the PR campaign makes no difference. It’s not the first time RSS has used lawsuits and PR to push housing projects forward. But it’s also not a common practice on their part. It’s happened only on a couple of the 100+ projects they’ve completed.

Rehabilitation Support Services strongly believes in their cause and is willing to use all means to accomplish their housing goals.

What do you think?

Do you think RSS is following good business practices and city officials are operating outside of the public interest? Or do you believe RSS is going too far and the city is doing the equivalent of staring down a bully?

Leave your comments below!

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