Washington, Greene receive Act 13 money to address low-income housing options

Posted September 16, 2013

Jon Stevens and Michael Bradwell
Observer-Reporter

Washington and Greene counties are again the recipients of funding to help create additional housing options for low-income families.

The money, which is derived from fees paid by natural gas drilling companies under Act 13, is intended to replenish housing stock that was depleted by strong demand from people who moved to the area to work in the drilling industry.

According to a news release from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the group approved $8.45 million to be distributed to groups in 22 counties to improve the availability and affordability of housing in the state’s Marcellus Shale region.

Funding for the program and projects is made available through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund and the Marcellus Shale impact fees.

“We are impressed this year with the diversity of quality housing programs receiving funding, reflecting the implementation of local solutions to housing challenges,” said PHFA Executive Director and CEO Brian A. Hudson Sr. in a news release.

“We’re also pleased to see counties taking a more comprehensive approach to addressing their housing needs, which is the approach we want to encourage,” he added. “We expect this program funding to have a significant, positive impact helping counties address housing shortages resulting from the development of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.”

In Washington County, the 2013 funding includes $606,500 for an addition to the Century Plaza Apartments in North Franklin Township.

William McGowen, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County, which administers the housing funds, said the authority will use the money to add 14 units to the existing 65 units.

He said the total cost of adding the units is estimated to be $1.85 million.

The PHARE funding also includes $57,500 for rehabilitating two homes by Habitat for Humanity in Washington County. “We have given them some money before to buy lots and help them build homes,” McGowen said.

Greene County, meanwhile, is slated to receive $600,000 for a rehabilitative and development program for scattered sites across the county, and $514,164 for a quadraplex in Jefferson Borough.

Jeff Marshall, Greene County’s chief clerk, said the rehabilitative program will be administered by the Redevelopment Authority of Greene County, and the application outlined 24 blighted or underutilized properties, 16 of which can be turned into housing projects.

Marshall said the intent is to make these properties habitable and return them to the tax rolls.

Following is a breakdown of the properties’ status:

• Three are currently owned by the redevelopment authority.

• Ten have gone to judicial sale, and it was the intention of the redevelopment authority to purchase them

• Six are in the tax repository and will be purchased through a private bid by the redevelopment authority.

• Four are in foreclosure, and one is adjacent to an existing redevelopment authority-owned property.

Eight of the parcels are in Jefferson Township; four in Cumberland Township; two in Dunkard Township; four in Franklin Township; four in Jefferson Borough; and two in Waynesburg Borough.

The application for the quadraplex was made by Accessible Dreams, an affiliate organization of Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living.

In its proposal for funding, Accessible Dreams said the “quad” unit would be built for mixed use, but must include at least two units for use by people with a disability of any income level. Each building would house four apartments. The bottom two units would be wheelchair accessible.

This initial quad is scheduled to be built along Route 188 in Jefferson.

The recently announced round of PHARE funding follows a 2012 round in which Washington County received $625,000 and Greene County, $600,000.

Originally, RACW intended to put the money toward conversion of a portion of the Washington Trust Building into apartments for low- to middle-income residents.

McGowen said when Trek Development couldn’t obtain low-income tax credits for the project for this year, RACW began looking for other ways to use the funds.

“We’re working with PHFA as to when we’re going to put the 2012 money to use,” he said, stating that one possibility is to apply it to the Century Plaza project.

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