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United Way of Lancaster County


Lancaster city, county invite public input as they finalize $6.8 million plan for housing, homeless aid

Lancaster city logo and redevelopment authority logo

The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority and the city of Lancaster are seeking public input on their plan to deploy nearly $6.8 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for homelessness assistance and housing stability services, part of the huge influx of federal aid flowing to local governments to help with pandemic recovery.

The money is authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. It must primarily benefit vulnerable populations, including individuals and families without housing or at high risk of losing shelter, and those fleeing domestic violence and human trafficking.

The city and county are to split the allocation, with the county receiving 70%, or $4.75 million, and the city 30%, or $2.04 million.

Their draft plan for using it is posted on the redevelopment authority's website. Based on local data and consultations with 16 entities involved in housing and homelessness services, it corroborates other recent analyses in its depiction of a county enmeshed in a housing crisis.

Most households in the bottom half of Lancaster County's income scale are cost-burdened, the draft plan says, due to the scarcity of rentals at affordable price points. Affordable housing constitutes the county's "largest unmet need," it says.

Organizations that operate emergency the organizations reported a sharp increase in demand during the coronavirus pandemic. They are looking to expand, and said they are struggling to move clients into permanent housing — again, due to a lack of affordable rentals.

Affordable housing providers, meanwhile, report long waiting lists and funding challenges due to limited subsidies and rising construction costs.

To address those issues, the plan proposes spending the HUD money as follows:

  • Supportive services: $750,000
  • Acquisition and development of non-congregate shelters: $1,272,118
  • Rental assistance: $250,000
  • Development of affordable rental housing: $2,816,352
  • Nonprofit operating expenses $339,236
  • Nonprofit capacity building $339,236
  • Administration & planning: $1,017,709

Overall, the plan says, the goal is to create 50 new affordable units per year and "support" 10 units a year over the next five years.

While that may sound modest, it's just one component in a suite of city, county and nonprofit housing strategies that leverage a wide range of funding streams.

Related: Lancaster unveils 5-year strategy for housing affordability

Those streams include both ongoing subsidies that predate the pandemic and temporary pandemic-related resources. The redevelopment authority, for example, is currently deploying about $55 million in emergency rental assistance, while the city plans to spend at least $5 million of its $39.5 million ARPA allocation on affordable housing. (The county has about $106 million available, but officials say they are holding off on major allocations pending final federal guidance.)

Make your voice heard

A virtual public hearing on the joint Lancaster County / Lancaster City HOME-ARP Allocation Plan draft will be held via Zoom at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21. To take part, email Michaela Allwine.

The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority's information on the plan is here. It includes the draft plan, a "citizen summary" and a short survey on what the plan's priorities should be.

To submit comments or questions about the plan, contact Jocelynn Ritchey via email, phone (717) 869-5722, or mail:

Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority
28 Penn Square, Suite 200
Lancaster, PA 17603

The draft plan's allocations for the HUD funds are subject to change based on public feedback, said Michaela Allwine, the authority's director of housing and community development.

The plan does not allocate money to specific projects, she said. Once it is finalized, the city and county will put out requests for proposals for organizations to apply for funding.

The plan allocates a full 25% of the available funding toward operating expenses, capacity building and administration and planning are the maximum allowed under HUD's rules.

Nonprofits have been stretched thin during the pandemic, and Allwine said they are having a hard time attracting and retaining staff in the current labor market. Accordingly, she said, "We want to offer capacity building and an appropriate amount of operating funds for partner organizations to ensure that we are not only providing services, but those services are sustainable because they are being provided by strong teams."

If it turns out less funding is needed in those categories, it can be pared back, she said.