Update, Jan. 18: On Wednesday, the Lancaster County commissioners authorized the county to apply for its share of state Whole Home Repairs funding and designated the county Redevelopment Authority to run the program locally.
The commissioners also approved the Lancaster County Library System’s application for $352,661 in county American Rescue Plan Act funding for information technology upgrades.
The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority is gearing up to expand its existing home repair program with funds from a new state initiative.
The program helps homeowners of limited means make the repairs they need to keep their properties habitable and in good condition. Right now, the local program has about 100 households involved, in stages from application to current construction, authority Executive Director Justin Eby told the Lancaster County commissioners at their Tuesday work session.
A few years ago, the average had been about 15 families a year.
“We’ve seen a huge jump during the pandemic years,” said Michaela Allwine, the authority’s director of Housing and Community Development.
The authority will be able to expand its program thanks to funding from Whole Home Repairs, an initiative included in the 2022-23 state budget. The first round of funding is just over $120 million, of which Lancaster County’s share is $3.9 million, usable over three years. (The money comes from Pennsylvania’s federal American Rescue Plan Act allocation.)
The authority has until the end of this month to put its supporting paperwork together and apply to the state. A motion on the commissioners’ agenda for Wednesday would authorize county Chief Clerk Larry George to sign off on the application and designate the authority to receive the money on the county’s behalf. Eby told One United Lancaster he doesn’t know how long it will take to receive the funds.
Staffing the program, he said, would involving adding one full-time person and one part-time inspector to the existing program.
“From my experience, it’s a great program,” Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said.
“One thing we all agree on is the importance of homeownership,” Commissioner Joshua Parsons said. “That only works if people are able to stay in their homes. … This program could be beneficial.”
The authority has a separate rental rehab program for small landlords to improve their properties, Allwine said.
The new grant program would allow those applicants to go beyond a current cap of $25,000 by layering on loan funding on top of the $25,000 grant amount.
Amounts above $25,000 would be structured as five-year loans at 0% for those improving traditional homes. For manufactured housing, aka mobile homes, the loan structure would be different, Allwine said, because this type of housing typically has limited home equity.
Library System IT Funding
Later in the work session, the commissioners discussed American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Lancaster County Library System.
The library is seeking $352,661 in order to replace a virtual server data center, replace Wi-Fi access points, and build a new data recovery failover center. The county’s ARPA work group reviewed the application and is recommending approval.
“Without (these things), our libraries would be out of business,” said Library System of Lancaster County Executive Director Karla Trout.
Lancaster Libraries IT Manager Matt Sandblade said the investment works out to about $1800 per year, per library site, with 18 sites active throughout the county.
Agostino called the IT initiatives “very cost-effective.”
A resolution approving the ARPA allocation is on the commissioners’ Wednesday agenda.
Last year, the commissioners approved $34,938 in ARPA funding for the Library System, also for IT work.