The City of Lebanon was recently approved for $250,000 to rehabilitate six owner-occupied houses through the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
The allocation was announced in mid-June by Gov. Tom Wolf as part of a $10 million-plus HOME disbursement to housing affordability initiatives in 17 Pennsylvania counties. HOME monies are provided to the state Department of Community and Economic Development from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Especially as Pennsylvanians continue to feel the financial impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, ensuring that there are good housing options for those who need it is critical,” Wolf said in a release.
The Lebanon County Redevelopment Authority is administering the program.
Daniel Lyons, the authority’s programs director, said the city has operated a housing rehabilitation program for decades, and applies for funds regularly.
He said the estimate of six homes was made based on project costs.
There used to be a cap of $25,000 on individual projects. That is no longer the case, as the city determined during a re-evaluation that many properties need more than that in repairs.
It is expected that lifting the cap will increase participation in a program that the city says has been underutilized.
According to the city’s HOME application, the housing stock in Lebanon is older and of modest value. Nearly 40 percent of housing units were constructed before 1940, with another 30.1 percent having been built between 1940 and 1959.
The majority are worth less than $100,000, and 8.8 percent alone are worth less than $50,000. More than 80 percent of Lebanon’s population is low or moderate income. The 2015-2018 American Community Survey showed the city’s median income to be $32,794, compared with $64,877 for the county as a whole and $52,548 for the state.
“The Housing Rehabilitation Program improves and maintains the quality of housing in the city and allows for sustainability of homeownership,” the application noted.
The program is citywide, but there’s been a focus on the north side of Lebanon, which was said to have the highest incidence of poor housing conditions and poverty. Projects undertaken will be largely moderate rehabs rather than “gut” rehabs.
The application called the program “the cornerstone of the city’s revitalization efforts.” It also mentioned that Lebanon recently formed a land bank with the mission of returning blighted, tax-delinquent properties to productivity. The land bank will operate alongside the housing rehab program.
Lyons said that the rehab projects tackle major repairs, such as roofing and heating systems. An inspection identifies deficiencies before work begins, he said.
The program relies on a small pool of contractors who contract directly with the homeowner, he added.
Any lead removal or abatement is covered by a forgivable grant. The rest is covered by a 10-year conditional grant (10 percent forgiveness each year over 10 years), he said.
Eligibility is based mostly on income, Lyons said. The property must be a single-family, owner-occupied primary residence.
Referrals for the program come from contractors, social service agencies and others. People also can apply through the redevelopment authority by calling 717-273-9326.
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