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United Way of Lancaster County


City Council to consider reallocating $2 million in ARPA for housing

Clockwise from top left: Stevens College students work on a duplex at 640 S. Franklin St.; a rendering of The Apartments at College Avenue; a new roof installed through Lancaster city’s critical repair program. (Source: OUL file photos)

City Council is poised this month to reallocate $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The money is part of the $10 million in ARPA that has been dedicated to affordable housing, out of the city’s $39.5 million total. Originally, the $2 million went to Parcel B Development Co., then known as SDL Devco, to provide dedicated units for low-income households at The Yards, a 226-unit apartment complex planned at Lititz Pike and Marshall Avenue.

Last fall, however, Parcel B President Ben Lesher advised city officials that his company would not be able to use the money after all, because the requirements that come with it would lead to significantly higher costs overall.

The city put out a fresh request for proposals, again targeting affordable housing. It received seven submissions, City Councilman Jaime Arroyo told his colleagues this week.

Arroyo is part of the city’s ARPA review committee. It is recommending that City Council award $1.7 million to four projects, as follows:

  • The Apartments at College Avenue (HDC MidAtlantic): $500,000
  • College Avenue Phase II (HDC MidAtlantic): $300,000
  • Partners With Purpose: $400,000
  • Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology: $500,000

The remaining $300,000 would go into the city’s own Office of Healthy Homes, where it would be used for grants to help low-income homeowners make essential repairs to their houses.

City Council will consider a pair of bills making the $1.7 million and $300,000 appropriations at its meetings this month: They are scheduled for a first reading on March 12, setting up a vote March 26.

About the projects

The two HDC MidAtlantic projects could add more than 130 affordable apartments to Lancaster’s stock. That includes 64 units at The Apartments at College Avenue and around 75 total at the two projects subsumed under “Phase II,” according to HDC MidAtlantic’s preliminary estimates.

The housing nonprofit held a groundbreaking ceremony last month for The Apartments at College Avenue. The $23 million project is expected to open in spring 2025, serving individuals and households with incomes of $10,000 to $45,000.

Click to enlarge. (Source: HDC MidAtlantic)

The two Phase II projects are in the same neighborhood: They are the renovation of the Delp Wing at the former St. Joseph Hospital; and construction of an apartment building at 838 Marietta Ave., which is currently a parking lot.

Both are in preliminary stages, and parameters such as exact number of units, timeline and budget remain have not been finalized, HDC spokeswoman Kate Hartman said.

The $400,000 proposed for Partners With Purpose would cover the renovation of two single family homes, at 419 Reynolds Ave and 549 S. Christian St. They are among most dilapidated of the more than 90 properties that Partners With Purpose took over from the Lancaster City Housing Authority last year, said Chris Delfs, Lancaster’s director of Community Planning & Economic Development.

The money would supplement $500,000 in ARPA that the city provided to Partners With Purpose for renovations in its 2022 allocations. None of that money was spent on the two units being funded this time around, Delfs said.

The authority spun off Partners With Purpose in 2019. As a nonprofit, it can seek public and private and grants, which the authority, as a government entity, cannot.

As for Stevens College, the $500,000 it is seeking would go toward its ongoing project at the former Shell’s Disposal and Recycling Center site at 640 S. Franklin St. The college is building four duplexes there, for a total of eight units, which will be sold to low- and moderate-income city homeowners.

The first duplex has been built; construction on the next is slated to start in summer 2025. The work provides on-the-job experience for dozens of Stevens students each academic year.

The other three applications the city received did not meet its minimum criteria for ARPA funding, Arroyo said. The committee scored each proposal on a set of metrics, including number of units produced, ratio of ARPA dollars to other funding, alignment with the city’s affordable housing strategy and applicant capacity to complete the project in accordance with all requirements.

Critical repair funds

Besides adding affordable units, the city needs to preserve the ones it has. That’s the purpose of initiatives such as the Critical Repair Program.

The program’s funding is normally about $125,000 a year, drawn from Lancaster’s federal Community Development Block Grant. Providing an additional $300,000 from ARPA will help a lot, Delfs said.

At an average project cost of $10,000, it would allow the city to help an additional 30 households. There’s always more demand than the city can handle, Delfs said, and 15 properties are currently on the waiting list.

To be eligible, households must earn less than 80% of county median income. The city prioritizes those earning 50% or less, Delfs said: For a family of four, that threshold is $47,750.

Eligible repairs include roofs, windows, heating, plumbing and other building systems and accessibility improvements.

Federal ARPA guidelines require municipalities to allocate funding by the end of 2024 and ensure that it is spent by the end of 2026. Delfs said he’s confident his team will be able to identify eligible projects and sign contracts with construction firms in plenty of time to meet the first deadline. As for deadline No. 2, he predicted the money would be fully spent by mid-2025, more than a year ahead of time.

Last month, City Council approved $250,000 for a critical repair low-interest loan program, supplementing the critical repair grants and serving households with the ability to repay assistance over time. It will be administered by Tenfold in partnership with the Healthy Homes Office.

Other related programs include the city’s lead remediation and Healthy Homes initiatives, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s countywide Lead-Free Families, and Whole Home Repairs, administered by the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority.

Together they constitute a “ladder” of assistance options. The city works with applicants to determine which program or programs best covers their needs and allocate the available funding as cost-effectively as possible, said Craig Walt, chief of the city’s bureau of lead safety & community development.