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Chambersburg OKs Habitat's request to jointly seek grant

July 30, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERBSURG, Pa. -- Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County is in the business of building new houses - 22 so far in the county - and it plans to enter into a partnership with Chambersburg to renovate houses for its low- and moderate-income clients.

The Borough Council on Monday approved holding an Aug. 11 public hearing on Habitat's request to jointly seek a $350,000 HOME grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. It would also apply to the county's Housing Trust Fund for another $50,000, said Kathy Newcomer, the borough's community development specialist.

The money would be used to buy three properties in the borough, renovate them up to current building codes and sell them to qualified low- or moderate-income families, Habitat Executive Director Michelle Bowen said.

Habitat has built four houses in Chambersburg's Elm Street area and broke ground on a fifth earlier this month, Bowen said. Elm Street is part of a state program aimed at improving economically depressed neighborhoods - in Chambersburg's case, a mostly residential area adjacent to the borough's downtown business district.

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The $350,000 state grant the borough is seeking on behalf of Habitat is from a pool of funds for which other municipalities can compete, Newcomer said. The partnership between the borough would be the first such joint effort between a municipality and Habitat for Humanity, she said.

If the grant is approved, and the houses are purchased and rehabilitated, money from the mortgages paid by the new owners would be reinvested into buying and fixing up other houses, Bowen said. Some of the properties could be rentals that would be converted to owner-occupied housing, she said.

The housing stock in Chambersburg is old, with 74 percent of the 8,300 housing units being built four or more decades ago, Newcomer said. About 50 percent are rental units, while almost half the borough's households qualify as low- or moderate-income, she said.

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