Council approves use of $300,000 for housing project

“We’re reversing an erosion of the tax base.”

That’s how Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland described to City Council Thursday night a partnership between the city and county as they work together on a housing strategy.

For its part, council authorized the commitment of $300,000 from the Home Investment Program at 1 percent interest, setting up an investment agreement with Memorial Homes LP, the management company that will oversee and manage 40 apartments and 32 townhouses to be built by another company at the Brodart warehouse site on Memorial Avenue.

The money was funds previously part of the Pennsy Heights development in the west end of the city that were not being utilized and would have been lost if not allocated for similar projects by a June 30 deadline, said Councilman Randall J. Allison.

On behalf of the city, Allison thanked the county partners and housing strategy team of planners and said while these are projects in the city, Memorial Homes, in particular, is a true regional project.

The agreement allows the city to move natural gas impact fee money into the project, including use for offsite improvements in the neighborhoods surrounding the housing development meant to revitalize the area, according to John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.

Wheeland also hinted at future partnership developments ahead. “We have oodles of other projects we’re working on” with the city and finance director William E. Nichols Jr., he said.

Wheeland also said people need to be aware these strategies, including a neighborhood improvement around Memorial Homes and a 32-unit senior citizen apartment between Grove and Almond streets by SEDA-Council of Governments, are not government-owned properties, but rather, buildings to be built by private developers investing in a city where they see potential and opportunity.

“We’re going to revitalize that whole neighborhood,” Wheeland said. The building, a vacant storage house that has fallen apart recently due to its age and structural deficiency, is to be demolished to make way for Memorial Homes, and an area for two single family dwellings by Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity.

Wheeland also lauded the efforts of state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, for his initiative and foresight to see the value of using Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement funding from natural gas impact fees for such housing purposes before they were available.

“When you see him give him a pat on his back,” Wheeland said of Yaw.