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State College Could Get More Than $600,000 for Affordable Housing Initiatives

by on May 19, 2018 5:00 AM

Affordable housing programs in State College might be getting a big boost.

The borough is eligible to receive three grants totaling $624,281 through Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development’s HOME program, state Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, announced this week.

“The money will enable the borough to provide more reasonably-priced housing options to our neighbors in need,” Corman said. “A steep demand for housing in State College has pushed housing prices higher and higher. Affordable housing is vital to helping our families succeed and making our community a better place to live.”

The federally-funded HOME program provides municipalities with grant and loan assistance as well as technical assistance to expand the availability of affordable housing for low-income individuals and families.

DCED is making funds available for the first time to municipalities, like State College, that already receive a direct HOME entitlement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of less than $500,000. The state program previously only made the funds available to local governments that are not HUD participating jurisdictions.

The borough must complete an environmental review process to receive the new grants through DCED.

Funds would support the borough's two Community Development and Housing nonprofit partners, State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) and Temporary Housing Foundation (THF) to acquire and rehabilitate properties that would be offered as affordable housing. The borough also would receive funds for operating costs for the first-time homebuyers program.

HOME grants can be used for new construction, rehabilitation, financing, acquisition of rental or sales housing and rental assistance for low- and moderate-income families, Corman said. A 25 percent local match on project costs from non-federal resources for rental housing is required.

THF's Morgan Wasikonis and SCCLT Board President Susan Venegoni discussed the potential new funding at a borough council meeting earlier this year, with council later voting to approve an application.

Both Wasikonis and Venegoni noted that funding for the organizations and home prices have trended in opposite directions, and that has been compounded by the nonprofits often having to compete against investors for properties.

The potential for new state funding was unexpected and welcome.

"The funds we use right now become more and more limited each year and the prices of the homes we’re trying to buy and sell become more and more expensive," Wasikonis said in February.

"We would probably have to wait another year and a half to purchase a home for the program because the funds we get in October would not be sufficient. Having these would allow us to move forward and those proceeds are used to further benefit affordable housing opportunities and options in the borough. It gives us a lot more of a chance to move forward with some of those projects."

Federal HOME funding for SCCLT and THF was $320,531 in 2017. Though the amount of the grants has fluctuated over the years, they have seen an overall decline since a high mark of $566,000 in 2003, while home prices in the borough have steadily increased.

Total HUD funding for the two programs dropped by $21,000 from 2016 to 2017, and has declined by $83,000 since 2014.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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