The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 28, 2013

City, borough apply together for housing rehab grant

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE, WHEATLAND — Hermitage and Wheatland are teaming up to try to bring $500,000 in new housing rehabilitation money into the Shenango Valley.

Hermitage would add its share to the rehab program it has run for 30 years, while Wheatland would resurrect a program last run in the mid-2000s.

The municipalities, with the help of Mercer County Regional Planning Commission, are asking for federal money through the state’s HOME program.

The city has relied on federal Community Development Block Grant funds for housing rehab, but that program has been slashed over the years and city officials have had to balance rehab needs with paving, storm water drainage improvements and community projects.

“We did two rounds in the past,” said Wheatland Borough Secretary Sharon Stinedurf, who attended Wednesday’s Hermitage commissioners’ meeting with council members George Ashby and David Jones.

“We still have people on the waiting list,” she said. “We also have new people.”

The borough has about 12 people on its waiting list, while the city has 15.

The planning commission is assisting rehab programs in the areas of Greenville, Grove City and between Mercer and Greenville. Multi-municipal efforts have been very successful in securing funding, said Chris Conti, senior planner for the planning commission.

“They like to see cooperation,” he said.

Hermitage administered Wheatland’s last housing rehab grant. Since then, the city has laid off its dedicated housing rehab specialist. Lawrence County Community Action Partnership now handles intake and inspection for Hermitage, and would do the same for Wheatland.

Lawrence County’s involvement also has been beneficial because it receives a federal grant for lead paint abatement in homes in which young children live. When a home is identified as having lead paint that needs to be removed, the federal grant money is used for that purpose, leaving more money from the municipalities for home improvements.

The program addresses code problems in a owner-occupied, single-family homes and brings the homes up to the minimum standard, Conti said. Low- and very-low income residents are eligible.

Wheatland had a maximum of $20,000 a home in past phases. Hermitage’s limits are $22,500 for very-low-income families and $17,500 for low-income families.

Hermitage would target the parts of town that were addressed in the Neighborhood Investment Program, which would be homes in Patagonia, along Rombold Road, and the areas bordered by East State Street, North Buhl Farm Drive, Sharon and Buhl Farm park, said Jeremy P. Coxe, assistant director of planning and development.

The municipalities would use 6 percent of the grant for administration - the maximum allowed - with the remaining money split by a ratio of 60 percent to 40. Hermitage would get $282,000 and Wheatland $188,000.