Providing safe, affordable housing for people with disabilities is what Community Homes of Lebanon County aims for in its new “proof of concept” duplex.

The two one-story homes at 731 Maple St. in Lebanon are a design forerunner, Community Homes CEO Charlie Rush said in a phone interview with LebTown. In the next few years, the nonprofit plans to build 23 more handicap-accessible rental units in the city on Canal Street.

A Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting for the Maple Street project is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 28.

Community Homes already operates 285 affordable housing rentals in Maple, Oak, Willow, Hill, Poplar, and Tulpehocken terraces.

However, “there’s a significant waiting list for units we have that are accessible,” Community Homes’ board chairman Glenn Wenger told LebTown.

Even if the renters in the current handicapped-accessible units all moved out tomorrow, it would still take nearly 50 years to get through the waiting list, Rush said. “There’s a huge demand and a paltry supply.”

The Maple Street duplex is the first effort to try to alleviate that. “We’re doing what we can to fill that gap,” he said.

Set on a previously vacant lot, the semi-detached homes were built as a kind of template or concept that can be duplicated on a larger scale, Wenger said.

An architectural rendering of Community Homes of Lebanon Valley’s Maple Street homes. (Photo provided)

The Maple Street project cost $220,000. Funding was a combination of Community Homes’ own resources, a Fulton Bank grant and private contributors, he said. Federal subsidies, which are harder and harder to get, Rush said, were not involved.

“This building is a wonderful example of local people helping local people,” he said in a press release announcing the ribbon cutting.

In addition to Fulton Bank and the Community Homes’ board, led by Wenger, Rush thanked Woodland Contractors, Steckbeck Engineering, and Stony Bridge Landscaping.

Tenants move in Aug. 1. The rent they pay is based on an income formula, Wenger said.

Each duplex is about 500 square feet and features an open kitchen/living room/dining room, a bedroom and a bath.

It’s more minimalist, Rush said, but it’s good quality housing. The rentals on Canal Street — where the old Union Canal superintendent’s house was —will be 500 to 700 feet, with one or two bedrooms.

Architect Bob Hoffman, who’s done a lot of work for Community Homes, designed the Maple Street units. “Charlie [Rush] came to me with the small home concept,” Hoffman, of Beers+Hoffman Architecture, said in a phone interview.

It’s entirely laid out with access and independence in mind, Rush said, starting with parking that’s close to the unit. As the renter enters the home and moves around, it’s all smooth. “No hits, no errors,” he said.

The bathroom includes a roll-in shower and 5-foot wheelchair turning radius. A front-load washer and dryer are in the bedroom closet.

Cabinets and countertops are built to Americans with Disabilities Act specifications. The kitchenette is equipped with a wide wheelchair radius as well.

As far as décor, the interior is a soft white with darker cabinets, Rush said. The appliances have a wrinkle black finish, and each window includes a custom blind.

The two houses share a plumbing system, which saved some money in the overall project cost, Hoffman said.

Per unit, the price to build the Maple Street duplex, he said, “was significantly less than the cost per unit in a high rise.”

Read more: HDC breaks ground on affordable housing community in Bethel Township

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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.


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