State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18) announced last week that six affordable housing projects in the 18th Senatorial District have been approved for up to $1,021,221 in funding through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), which is managed through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
“The need to provide affordable housing has always been critical here in the Lehigh Valley and that need has only been magnified in the past few years,” Boscola said.
“PHARE is an important tool through which funding can be distributed into our local communities who are in desperate need to provide affordable housing opportunities,” she added. “By doing so, the Commonwealth can make a positive impact in revitalizing local communities.”
The six affordable housing projects approved for funding are:
- Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley ($411,800) for the Community Action Better Homes: Housing Rehabilitation to Increase Energy Efficiency and Mobility project. The proposed effort involves a comprehensive strategy to address the most critical housing needs for owner-occupied LMI households in the Lehigh Valley. CABH will expand its owner-occupied rehab program to include energy efficiency and mobility upgrades. These upgrades will create a safe, affordable and sustainable living situation, while also decreasing utility bills and ensuring that older and/or physically-disabled homeowners are able to age in place and increase their independence.
- United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley ($239,451) for its Lehigh Valley Regional Homeless Advisory Board Eviction Defense Services Program. The Eviction Defense Services Program will provide eviction defense services to 225 low-income households, resulting in the prevention of evictions and other beneficial outcomes, including negotiating settlements, preserving housing subsidies, avoiding excess debt and/or improving the habitability of housing.
- PA Days Restart LLC ($200,000) for the Dutchtown Commons project in the West Ward of the City of Easton. Dutchtown Commons is a planned housing and retail development which will transform seven adjacent, vacant and/or underutilized lots into a seven-story structure that has a supermarket, two parking lots and a total of 39 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Affordable housing will be available to two households with income below 50 percent of the median area income (MAI) and four households with income between 50 and 200 percent of MAI.
- Merakey Pennsylvania ($65,000) for its Preventing Homeless for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care program. Merakey is requesting PHARE funds for building renovations and furnishings that will enable a program to house up to six young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. Renovations will include internal and external painting, installation of a toilet, relocating a bathroom door and installing security cameras and a Ring doorbell. The funds will also be used to furnish the home.
- Catalyst 4 ($65,000): Catalyst 4 addresses the concurrent problems of limited affordable housing and too many blighted properties by training individuals to become construction laborers, carpenters, electricians, painters and plumbers, all of which were identified as High Priority Occupations for the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Area in 2021. In addition to rehabilitating blighted properties, trainees will also renovate renter-occupied homes, tailoring renovations to the needs of the renter and addressing accessibility issues. Revitalized homes that are safe and of high quality will be made available to anyone in need of affordable housing. During this pilot project, PHARE funds will used for construction training and costs related to the acquisition and/or rehabilitation of blighted homes.
- Bucks County Housing Group Inc. ($40,000) for a Housing Counseling Program. The proposed effort will expand and preserve home ownership opportunities for low-income, first-time homebuyers through HCP’s Home Ownership Savings Account Program and First-Time Homebuyer Seminar. The funds will also go towards increasing marketing and outreach efforts to reach more potential participants and retain an administrative assistant as a full-time employee to continue to build program capacity and serve more participants. Services will be available to Northampton and Lehigh County residents.
Funding for the PHARE program comes from three main sources: a portion of the impact fee from natural gas drilling, a portion of the realty transfer tax and money from the National Housing Trust Fund.
The six projects in the 18th Senatorial District were funded through the realty transfer tax.
Note: The information in this story was included in a news release from state Sen. Lisa Boscola’s office.