Fountain Hill apartments get affordable housing award
Local partners, with contributing banks and U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent, R-15th, announced recently an affordable housing grant worth $320,000 would benefit reconstruction and renovation of a residential complex in Fountain Hill.
Valley Housing Development Corporation Chair Joseph Shupp said the project, totaling $17.2 million, will rehabilitate 113 units at The Mills at Cherokee and Seneca streets, next to borough hall. First renovated in the early 90s, the time has come for additional work. Development Director Brandon Johnson said, "The Mill is in dire need of rehab, and though VHDC is a great property manager, they've done everything they can. This is beyond what an operating budget can maintain."
"This [was] taking a hundred-year-old building and turning it into housing," Shupp said, noting now it's necessary to renovate all the way to the walls, in many cases; much more extensive than door knobs and light fixtures.
Shupp and Johnson said additional awards and finalizing the development should result in the beginning of construction by January 2016.
In theory, units will be closed and remodeled as tenants move out, and if five or 10 can be done at a time, by January of 2017 the project will be complete.
Dent said he has long supported such projects from within congress. "The Lehigh Valley is still a growing community … and it's putting an upward pressure on the price of housing." He said partnerships are critical to the process, which has helped develop 1,700 housing units in the valley over the last 25 years – 1,200 of which as managed by VHDC.
"These are substantial projects," Dent said.
Dent said congress provides the low-income housing tax credits and Lafayette Ambassador Bank conducted VHDC's application for Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh's funds. "This type of deal helps a lot of low-income people who otherwise would be in some pretty deplorable situations from a housing perspective."
The Mills, a two-building residential complex once used exclusively for heavy industry, is now the beneficiary of this award for the second time, having competed with more than 100 other projects across three states for the funds, said FHLBank of Pittsburgh Community Investment Manager David Buches. "It's a competitive process," he said. "We're real happy to provide this resource to communities that have a need for housing."
Buches said FHLBank, a private institution, this year contributed $23 million to affordable housing grants.