The number of affordable housing units available in Lebanon County relative to the demand for them is a long-term problem that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
But now three local nonprofit groups, as well as Community Homes of Lebanon County, have plans to help alleviate this situation.
The group, which is led by Community Homes, is in the final stages of a $ 5.1 million plan to begin construction of 23 affordable housing units along East Canal Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Township of northern Lebanon.
Their plan, it was noted at Thursday’s county commissioners meeting, would cut waiting lists for the three nonprofits of more than 100 people in the county who want their own homes, according to Charles Rush, Managing Director of Community Homes.
“Those three other nonprofits, Calvary Chapel, Lebanon Rescue Mission, and LCCM (Lebanon County Christian Ministries), I asked them the question, ‘Overall, year over year, how many people in your different programs could use housing like this? “,” Rush told the commissioners. “And they each answered me and told me that their needs now amount to about 105 households per year. So those 23 units represent less than 22% of their needs, and that’s fair with them and not the community as a whole. “
Commissioners voted to approve, after lengthy cost discussions, Rush’s request for an interest-free loan of $ 500,000 through Bill 137 funding to help cover some of the anticipated costs.
Law 137, also known as the Optional Fund for Affordable Housing Act, allows counties to generate additional income to be used for affordable housing needs by increasing fees charged for deed and mortgage registration. .
Commissioners William Ames and President Robert Phillips, while declaring overwhelming support for the project, also expressed concerns about the average cost of the nine two-bedroom units and 14 one-bedroom units. The average cost is expected to be $ 222,000 per unit, according to Rush, which is about $ 100,000 more per unit than what affordable housing typically costs in Lebanon County.
Commissioner Phillips said the overall cost of the project and the individual price per unit gave him a ‘sticker shock’.
“It shocked us all,” Rush said, responding to the two commissioners’ concerns about costs. “When we did a first pro forma earlier this year and then updated it in July, we saw, for example, for the whole project, a 20% increase in building materials that exceeded a just over $ 600,000 in increased costs… When we built the two units on Maple Street, because we owned the land and the utilities, we did it for about $ 122,000 per unit, but that’s just over $ 222,000 per unit. The difference is the raw land, the lack of utilities and the volatility of construction costs.
Rush noted that the difference between the first pro forma completed earlier in the year and the one completed in July saw projected costs increase by more than $ 1 million, but added that “we will do everything possible to reduce this unit cost as this the project takes place.
Given the high cost of this project, this will be the first time in Lebanon County that an affordable housing project will be built and occupied with the full use of private funds, according to Rush.
“It’s something new with this project that we’ve never done before and that we’ve never been known to do and that’s fundraising,” Rush said. “A lot of money was available at the state and federal levels and it doesn’t happen anymore, so we’re taking a slightly different approach in this regard.”
Community Homes, which acts as the project manager and will be the owner and manager of the units, will conduct a three-year fundraising campaign to raise approximately $ 1.8 million, which will represent 35% of the total funding required for the project with Another 44 percent of the funding being provided by grants from a Pittsburgh-based federal mortgage lender totaling $ 2.25 million, according to Rush.
“It’s unique in the sense that there is a huge amount of private funding to do this,” Rush noted. “It’s just the reality that we don’t have places to go with credible chances of success at the federal or state level to fund this project.”
Disabled accessible units will also include front and back porches as well as mandatory storm water management drainage. The first of the three phases of the project is expected to start in 2022.
In separate but related items, the Commissioners took action on several issues relating to the construction of the 911 Center in the Township of North Cornwall. They voted in favor of approving the subdivision improvement and land use planning and financial security agreement as well as the stormwater / water management operation and maintenance agreement. best management practices for the center.
In other county affairs, the commissioners:
- Approved a request for Children and Youth Services to participate in a statewide child protection database so that information can be shared with other Commonwealth counties.
- Voted to accept two hotel tax grant funding requests in the amount of $ 10,000 for the Borough of Jonestown for the renovation of George H. Kaufman Park, and $ 2,500 for the Lebanon Valley Conservancy to announce their 10-mile Tower to Town charity run in 2022.
- Issued a proclamation recognizing the 125th anniversary of the Lebanese chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which was founded locally on August 8, 1896.
The commissioners also issued a proclamation acknowledging and thanking Roman Shahay for his 17 years of service as director of the Renovo Center, the county-owned intermediate care facility that provides a family-like environment with 24-hour services to about 25 people with serious or serious illness. profound intellectual disability.
Accepting the proclamation, Shahay said the reality of retirement, which begins tomorrow, was “an emotional event” and that he was going to miss his “home away from home”. The commissioners thanked him for his dedicated commitment to the work of the center.
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