Affordable housing development funds earmarked for Washington County

Barbara Miller
Observer Reporter

Agencies within Washington County will be receiving a combined total of just over $1.3 million through a statewide effort to expand affordable housing.

The money comes through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement fund managed by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

Funding for the PHARE program comes mainly from three sources: impact fees collected from natural gas companies operating in the state, which is supplemented by a portion of the realty transfer tax and money from the national Housing Trust Fund, first allocated to states in 2016.

Gov. Tom Wolf said decisions on how funding should be spent are “driven locally.”

The Washington County Redevelopment Authority will be receiving $700,000 from Marcellus Shale impact fees as part of its long-range goal to build patio homes for the elderly on a 5.8-acre site along Sanitarium Road near the Waynesburg Road intersection.

“We’ve done some market studies,” said William McGowen, redevelopment authority executive director.

“We still have to go through South Strabane’s planning approval process.”

The redevelopment authority, “once we get sewer issues solved,” will be working on site grading, utilities and construction of a road into the parcel, McGowen continued.

Plans call for erecting as many as 40 patio homes, “so it’ll be a pretty good-sized project when it’s done, but we’ll do it in phases,” according to the executive director.

The redevelopment authority has owned the tract for nearly a decade.

An allocation of $400,000 from the realty transfer tax fund has been earmarked for MVAH Partners of West Chester, Ohio, and Wexford, Allegheny County, which has proposed using the former First Street Elementary School in Canonsburg for senior citizen apartments.

A message left with Trey Barbour, MVAH senior vice president of development for the Northeast region, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

A story from Canonsburg council last November reported Barbour proposed a mixed-income complex of 50 one- and two-bedroom units for people aged 62 and older.

Council agreed in 2017 to grant a 50 percent, five-year break on real estate taxes for the project.

The Washington County Housing Authority will be getting $105,000 from Marcellus impact fees to create as many as three one-bedroom units at Valley View Terrace, Canonsburg.

Stephen Hall, housing authority executive director, said two studio apartments and one one-bedroom unit will have plumbing and kitchens added to what had been the second floor of two-story townhouse-style dwellings.

In a previous project, the first floors were redesigned to accommodate wheelchairs, eliminating the units’ second floors.

Hall said he expects once a contract is awarded that a redesign will take three to six months, with rehabilitation starting around March 2020. If needed, the housing authority expects to make an additional $25,000 from its capital fund available.

The Blueprints agency will be receiving $52,500 via Marcellus to set up a Washington County Home Purchase Fund to assist eligible first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs.

A separate grant of $75,000 from the realty transfer tax will be directed to Blueprints’ Home Ownership Center for Re-entry to aid inmates released from the Washington County jail.

Blueprints, in finding housing for former inmates, also seeks to match them with supports to reduce recidivism, said Jeff Fondelier, vice president of operations.