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Chambersburg family returns to refurbished home

February 25, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For 27 years, Linda Johnson lived in a house without a furnace, a home that in recent years literally was falling down around her.

About six months ago, she left the house on Riddle Road, splitting time between the homes of her parents and her daughter.

Johnson, a widow who works in a nursing home laundry, returned Friday to a newly refurbished home, welcomed by Chambersburg Mayor Peter Lagiovane, Borough Council President William McLaughlin and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

"The kitchen never had cupboards before," Johnson said, admiring the new wooden cabinets. Before and after pictures showed the transformation of a house in an advanced state of disrepair, with a leaking roof, falling ceiling tiles, cracked flooring and ancient fixtures.

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"It's a humbling thing. It's wonderful ... because it's for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren," said Ruth Chronister, Johnson's mother.

Through the Chambersburg Housing Rehabilitation Program, Johnson, her daughter, Tanya and grandsons, Mc-

Kenzie, Colby and Isaac, have a new roof over their heads -- and rafters, a new ceiling, bathroom and kitchen. There also is a furnace, replacing the kerosene heaters they once used to keep warm in the winter.

The program is funded by a $350,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said Kathleen Newcomer, a community development specialist for the borough. Franklin County provided another $50,000 in matching funds, McLaughlin said.

Qualified borough homeowners can receive a grant of up to $10,000 for repairs, Newcomer said. For costs above that figure up to $25,000, owners are eligible for a 3 percent interest loan.

In the case of Johnson's home, the cost was $80,000, which required permission from the state, Council Vice President Robert Wareham said. The cost included removal of lead paint in the house, which was built in the late 19th century.

When paid back, money from the loans is returned to the program, Newcomer said. There is a lien against the properties for the grant money, which is forgiven if the owners live there for 10 years.

Since the program began in 1992, 128 homes have been renovated, Newcomer said.

The benefits of the program are many, including revitalizing the borough's housing stock, 80 percent of which was built more than 30 years ago, Newcomer said. Lead abatement in these older homes is another, but the biggest benefit is putting families in decent homes, she said.

"There's a big application you have to fill out and millions of papers to sign," said Johnson, who added that it was a slight inconvenience for the benefit her family received.

For more information about the program, borough homeowners may call Newcomer at 717-261-3208. Applications are available at Borough Hall at 100 S. Second St.

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