CLEARFIELD – On Tuesday the Clearfield County Commissioners approved for Planning Director Jodi Brennan to apply for $125,000 in funding for the proposed rehabilitation of vacant, tax delinquent properties to be converted into affordable rental housing units.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) recently announced a request for proposals for applications to participate in the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), said Brennan.
The PHARE fund was established by Act 105 of 2010 to provide a mechanism by which certain funds would be used to assist with creation, rehabilitation and support of affordable housing throughout the commonwealth.
According to Brennan, one of the priority housing needs identified by the county’s 2012 Housing Needs & Market Assessment is the creation of safe, decent and affordable rental housing. She said data specifically shows a shortage in affordable and available rental units for very low and extremely low income renters.
Also, she said another related housing issue is the large number of residential properties that are currently sitting vacant on the county’s tax sale list. “These are properties that are neither generating any tax revenues nor serving any productive housing use,” she said.
“However, under new ownership and with some rehabilitation, these properties could easily be turned into much-needed affordable rental units. This would be improving both the county’s rental housing stock and the tax base for the county, our local municipalities and school districts.”
If the county receives the PHARE funds, Brennan proposed a partnership with Central Pennsylvania Community Action (CPCA). Through this partnership, she said they would rehabilitate and lease, as affordable housing, a minimum of four rental units.
She said properties to potentially be acquired are those up for tax sale that are found suitable and structurally sound for conversion to affordable rental housing. “Our focus will be to identify suitable housing in the Clearfield and DuBois communities,” she said.
According to Brennan, the county would use its Affordable Housing Trust funding to create a property abstracting work station. This, she said, is to provide the tools necessary to assist the county and its agents in locating property owners and other parties of interest to get properties to judicial sale, as well as to clear titles to acquire them.
She said the CPCA would further assist the county by accepting ownership upon acquisition of these properties and administering the housing rehabilitation portion of the PHARE funds if awarded. The CPCA, she said, would develop a detailed scope of work for the rehabilitation of each property and secure the construction services of local professionals to complete the improvements.
As the owners, Brennan said the CPCA would rent out the rehabilitated properties to qualifying low income families. She said priority would be given to those below 50 percent of the median area income. Brennan said the CPCA would provide long-term maintenance to assure properties remained as decent, safe affordable rental housing options.