County trust fund aimed at seniors, low-income housing needs

March 17, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Every time someone buys or sells a property in Franklin County, a portion of the recording fee goes into a trust fund that is used to repair the leaking roof of a senior citizen, help a low-income family buy a house, or put a roof over the heads of a homeless family.

On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners approved $176,915 in funding for four programs through the Franklin County Housing Trust Fund grant program. Money for the fund comes from fees collected on deeds and mortgages recorded in the county.

The largest grant, $73,000, went to Maranatha, a nonprofit Christian organization, for its Total Person Transitional Housing Program. The money will be used as a matching grant to access $531,000 in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds to expand the program for homeless families with children from eight to 18 units, said Natalie Newcomer, the founder and executive director.


Maranatha will rent the additional 10 units over three years, Newcomer said. During that time, up to 35 families could make use of the transitional housing.

"We are creating viable people in the community," she said.

In addition to housing, the families are connected with agencies to assist them with financial planning, education and the other skills needed for them to make it on their own, Newcomer said.

"Families can stay in the program for up to two years," said Newcomer. As they become more self-sufficient, they pay a program fee to help to help defray the cost of their rental housing.

Another $48,875 was approved for the Mid Atlantic Coalition for Housing Opportunities, or MACHO, which has a 66-unit townhouse development for low- and moderate-families and individuals in Washington Township. Most of the money will be used to pay closing costs on homes, Executive Secretary Doris Thrailkill said.

Of the 66 units, Thrailkill said 55 have been sold and contracts have been signed for the other 11, four of which are still under construction. Additional land is available in the development for more houses in the future, and Thrailkill said MACHO will apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to build more.

The housing trust fund program, which has been optional in Pennsylvania counties since the early 1990s, began in 2002 in Franklin County, Commissioner Bob Thomas said. A new grant recipient this year is the Chambersburg Project, which will receive $30,000.

For several years, the Chambersburg Project has held a one-week summer work camp during which area youths and volunteer skilled labor repair and improve the homes of low- and moderate-income senior citizens and the disabled. Last summer, 115 youths and 50 adults made repairs at 44 county homes, Director Tim Moran said.

The Chambersburg Project, however, receives requests throughout the year to repair a leaking roof or bad plumbing and "you can't wait till July," Moran said. The money will be used to help eligible homeowners throughout the year, he said.

The Franklin County Housing Rehabilitation Program was approved for $25,040 by the commissioners. That will be used to obtain another $100,162 from the department of community and economic development's Communities of Opportunity Program.

Planning Director Phil Tarquino said how far that money goes depends on the extent of the work that needs to be done on the houses of qualified homeowners.

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