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Red Carpet Housing placed in unfair light

Guest column

May 14, 2009

For many months now, my wife and I, who are the founders of Red Carpet Housing Corp., have remained quiet as we have read various articles and heard radio commentaries in which our business and reputation have been dishonored in connection with our participation in the City of Gloversville Affordable Housing Grant Program. All the while, we have never been extended the courtesy of an interview during which "alleged facts" could be verified or confirmed (with the exception of the Gazette newspaper). And yes, we do have cell phones, and home and business telephones (which are published) with answering machines. And yes, we do return phone calls and remain willing to answer questions, given the opportunity to do so.

We stand accused of being favored to participate in the grant program which allegedly was steered our way by Mayor Tim Hughes. We first met the mayor in early 2007 following a tragic fire which destroyed his family home. The mayor was interested in keeping costs down and hoped to rebuild on his existing foundation. We listened to the mayor's concerns, designed a house that would fit on his foundation to save this expense and cut costs to a minimum to help him and his family. In the past, we have engaged in similar measures, including providing free temporary housing and offering replacement homes at slightly above our total cost to help a family in distress. What we did for the mayor was no different than what we have done to help other burn-out victims in the past (and will continue to do in the future). Such practices are part of our commitment to the community in which we live.

Later in 2007, we became aware that a housing grant program for Gloversville was being developed by the city's grant writer, Nick Zabawsky. Under this worthwhile program, people meeting stated income qualifications could achieve the dream of home ownership. At the same time, vacant city-owned lots would be put back on the tax rolls for the benefit of all concerned. Mr. Zabawsky indicated that another builder had submitted prices that were too high to permit a successful program, and the mayor suggested he contact us to see if we could provide better pricing. We decided to give it a try and completed a highly detailed application which required us to submit proposed homes within the specified price parameters, complete with drawings and warranty information, as well as proof of backing by various mortgage lenders who would be interested in working with us to finance the homes which we would build on the various sites. Ultimately, we were informed that we were the only developer that submitted a complete application which met the program requirements.

We know other developers were aware of the grant program, and they certainly could have applied. Take Robert Duemler, president of High Standard Homes. He was recently interviewed by The Leader-Herald, resulting in a news article appearing on Saturday. Mr. Duemler also wrote a letter to the editor that appeared on that date. Mr. Duemler admits he was fully aware of the program two years ago and that he had submitted an information package (absent the required pricing for a complete home soup to nuts). He also admits that the mayor went to visit his model home. Mr. Duemler now asserts that the mayor discouraged him from submitting pricing information due to the high prices submitted by other developers. Does this make any sense? Why would the mayor take the time to visit Mr. Duemler's model home if he wasn't being considered as a possible developer for the grant program? Would not the mayor's mention of overly high pricing of another builder induce Mr. Duemler to submit more competitive pricing, as it did Red Carpet? And, even now, the pricing quoted by Mr. Duemler in his letter to the editor is incomplete and misleading. The grant program requires the proposed developer to specify a total price, including foundation, furnace, plumbing, wiring, hot water tank, driveway and lawn (in other words, a "move-in" ready home). The prices given by Red Carpet include all of these things. The only possible extra would be demolition or removal of existing paving. The prices quoted by Mr. Duemler in his letter to the editor are only "for delivery to the site" and are apparently not inclusive of the other required elements I just described to have a complete home. Yes, as Mr. Duemler states, "the people do need to know the truth."

Other unfair complaints and criticisms of Red Carpet have been made. One former councilwoman, upon learning that Red Carpet had stated new owners would be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, falsely accused us of causing Gloversville to lose $8,000 in property tax revenue per grant program home. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The councilwoman apparently had no knowledge of the recently enacted federal government stimulus program, which provides a federal rebate for certain new home buyers, but truth and knowledge did not stop her from making a false allegation. Another frequent critic, Jack Kinzie, has touted that Red Carpet will sell lots that it acquires from the city under the grant program for a dollar a lot at a substantial profit. Mr. Kinzie has never had the courtesy to speak with either my wife or I, even once, before taking the bully pulpit. The prices provided by Red Carpet in the application for the grant program are for the house alone, assuming that the city will give the lot to the new owner for $1. We have suggested that this be made even clearer by having the city transfer the lot directly to the new owner.

As for the readers who have been presented an incomplete picture and don't know us, we started Red Carpet as a mom-and-pop shop in 1964. We have been in business for more than 45 years because we are dedicated to helping people find the homes they never thought they could afford. We always give people complete pricing and don't submit a "low ball" price and then ask for more money to pay for the things they need for a "move-in" ready home - such as plumbing, foundation, etc. We are a solid member of our community and have supported schools and children in the counties of Fulton and Montgomery with numerous events, including proms, sports, fundraisers, etc. We have raised money to help the fight against childhood cancer for more than 25 years. In short, we have always and will continue to give back to the community that helped us to grow. And, as previously stated, if you give us a call, we will return it. Please pass that message on to the newspapers and naysayers.

Theodore and Marilyn Leto are the founders of Red Carpet Housing Corp. in Johnstown.



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