Pa. housing agency eyes senior living facility

December 20, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Federal tax credits are being sought to build 40 rental units in Waynesboro for senior citizens and renovate existing apartments in the Mount Vernon Terrace complex.

The Franklin County (Pa.) Housing Authority this week asked the Waynesboro Borough Council for a letter of support as it submits an application to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

If approved for credits, the housing authority would try to sell the credits to local banks and use the equity for construction, renovation and related costs.

"We are doing everything we can to not enter (construction) with any kind of debt," said Bonnie Zehler, executive director of the housing authority.

The housing authority has been unsuccessful three times previously for its Wayne Gardens senior citizen housing project. That initiative, which would involve $4.6 million in construction, would create 40 units in two new buildings across from townhouses off the south end of Fairview Avenue.

Now, it is coupling its latest application with a second request for tax credits. Those would be used when renovating Mount Vernon Terrace, an existing complex with 20 buildings and 82 apartments. Mount Vernon Terrace, which is also off Fairview Avenue, opened in the 1950s and is not solely designated for senior citizens.

"We see the two (applications) as complementing each other," Zehler said.

Mount Vernon Terrace does not have income qualifiers for potential tenants. Still, the housing authority tries to keep the rent below other units on the market, according to Zehler.

A one-bedroom apartment will be $418 a month in 2013, Zehler said. That includes most utilities, she said.

Zehler said the Mount Vernon Terrace apartments especially benefit seniors and people who are earning about $8 to $10 an hour at their jobs.

"We see the pressures of the economic downturn on people and their housing needs. ... (Renting) is expensive, and the affordability of rental housing is an issue," she said.

Mount Vernon Terrace needs renovations because, among other things, it has 60-year-old pipes, Zehler said. The apartments would get air-conditioning and new kitchen cabinets, light fixtures and bathtubs, she said.

Six apartments will be renovated to become handicapped accessible, with one each dedicated to individuals with hearing impairments or vision impairments.

The housing authority is committed to not raising rents because of the renovations, according to Zehler.

The Wayne Gardens project received a financial commitment from the Franklin County Commissioners, and the borough council unanimously approved writing a letter of support for the applications. Zehler said individuals wishing to support the initiatives may call local legislators to share their thoughts.

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