Home Leasing Services LLC

Topco picHome Leasing Services’ involvement in the communities it builds in doesn’t end when its projects are completed.

By Jim Harris

Home Leasing Services LLC doesn’t look at the multifamily residential projects it builds as being just apartment complexes. “We can’t say the word ‘apartments’ here – it’s a community,” says Brian Bellaire, director of construction for the Rochester, N.Y.-based company. “We pride ourselves on doing things that make the properties we build true communities. Our residents, who really need the housing we provide, are really happy once we come in and renovate a project – they truly see it as a new home for them.”

A visit on most days to the community rooms in the communities Home Leasing Services builds reinforces the company’s community-minded philosophy. “They’re filled with people,” he adds.

The full-service general contractor specializes in affordable housing for senior citizens and families in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Most of Home Leasing Services’ projects are funded from state, local and federal tax credit and grant programs. The company’s projects range in scope from historic rehabilitations to ground-up construction. Home Leasing Services box

Home Leasing Services’ dedication to the communities it builds does not end when it completes construction. After Home Leasing Services finishes its projects, the property management team of the company manages its properties and helps residents get in touch with community services and organizations including local banks and the YMCA.

The company’s close connections to its properties and strong belief in creating communities recently led it to pursue re-certification as a benefit corporation, or B Corporation, a designation that acknowledges for-profit companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment.

“This furthers our commitment to the communities we work and live in,” Bellaire says. “We’re not just building things to make a profit – we’re here because people who can’t afford quality housing still need a home.”

Reviving a Neighborhood

Home Leasing Services is taking an active role in the revitalization of one Rochester neighborhood. The company in July anticipates completing its work on Eastman Gardens, a four-story, 52-unit senior housing project located in a former Eastman Dental Dispensary building. The building, constructed in 1917, was one of several established by Eastman Kodak Company founder George Eastman to provide dental care to children.

The $15 million historic rehabilitation project, which commenced in April 2015, includes refurbishing the building’s interior as well as restoring its masonry, marble and stone exterior. Home Leasing Services is also replacing all of the building’s windows and repairing interior plaster and ceilings. The project also includes recreating woodcarvings and a mural that were stolen or damaged over time. The company is using historic photos of the building provided by former employees as a reference, Bellaire says.

The project is located near another future Home Leasing Services development in Rochester’s EMMA neighborhood. The company, along with city elected officials and community housing organizations, recently formed a nonprofit group, Connected Communities Inc. Its goal is to attain Purpose Built Communities recognition for the area.

Founded in 2009, the Purpose Built Communities initiative works with 13 neighborhoods across the United States that struggle with concentrated poverty. The organization’s model includes creating a mix of low-income and middle-class housing, establishing strong schools and providing support services and facilities including nutrition and anti-crime programs.

“This is an initiative that goes beyond just building a bunch of affordable housing,” Bellaire says. “We believe that when you get the community, schools, businesses and others involved together, you’ll be poised for success.”

History of Success

Founded in 2008, Home Leasing Services is the construction arm of Home Leasing LLC, which dates its history back to 1967, when twin brothers Norman and Nelson Leenhouts founded Home Leasing Corporation. Over the next 25 years, the two grew the company into a successful real estate business with a diversified portfolio that included single-family homes, apartments and commercial properties.

After years of success with Home Leasing Corporation, the Leenhouts brothers formed Home Properties, which became a public company traded on the New York State Stock Exchange in 1994. The two served as joint CEOs of Home Properties from 1994 until 2003, during which time the company grew to 50,000 rental apartments in 12 states, including 10,000 affordable units.

Home Properties sold the affordable housing and commercial real estate sides of the business back to the two in 2006. Norman Leenhouts’ family formed another company, Broadstone Real Estate, which took over the commercial properties, while Nelson Leenhouts’ family formed Home Leasing LLC to handle the affordable housing and single-family portion of the business. Nelson Leenhouts continues to lead the company as its chairman and CEO.

Home Leasing Services is one of four affiliates of Home Leasing LLC. In addition to the construction division, Home Leasing LLC includes divisions dedicated to central services, development and community management.

The majority of Home Leasing Services’ construction projects are performed on behalf of its sister development company, though it also works for outside developers. “We keep busy with our own work, but also regularly get calls from others who want us to work for them because of our experience in multifamily projects and with different funding sources,” Bellaire says.

The company works regularly with a small pool of subcontractors. “We don’t put projects out to bid to every contractor in business,” he adds. “When we get a project, we will instead reach out to a handful of quality contractors we know in the community who have worked with us before.”

All of the company’s subcontractors follow Home Leasing Services’ extensive in-house safety program. The company believes in being proactive when it comes to safety, as it invites OSHA and U.S. Department of Labor officials to inspect its sites and safety practices. “We open our books and sites to them instead of just waiting for them to come,” Bellaire says.

A True Transformation

Home Leasing Services has $60 million worth of projects underway. Although most of its projects are geared toward affordable housing, the company also develops and builds market-rate projects.

The company last July began work on Charlotte Square in Rochester, a 139,000-square-foot building with 72 market-rate apartments. The $17 million development is part of the city’s Inner Loop East Transformation Project, an effort to transform a sunken section of expressway east of downtown Rochester. Charlotte Square is located on vacant land adjacent to the expressway, Bellaire notes.

The four-story building will include a structural steel parking garage on its lowest level, with three stories of wood construction above that. The garage is built on helical piles.

Charlotte Square will include a community terrace with a fire pit, industrial-sized grills and a large-screen television, as well as a fitness center, community room with a prep kitchen and media center, and soundproof practice roof. Move-ins are anticipated this fall.

The Charlotte Square project is designed to LEED Silver specifications. Green-minded features include landscaped areas, outdoor spaces, water efficient fixtures, energy star light fixtures and secure bicycle storage. The building will also feature high-efficiency windows and EnergyStar-certified furnaces, heating and air conditioning systems. The building will also include solar panels on its roof, Bellaire says.

The company’s other ongoing projects include a 62-unit senior affordable housing project in Owego, N.Y. The development, which replaces housing destroyed by flooding in 2011, is funded through the state’s Housing Finance Agency and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. Work began last year and is anticipated to conclude in October, he adds.

Home Leasing and Home Leasing Services have numerous additional projects in the pipeline, the number of which have increased each year to date.

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