How $1.37 million in state funds will expand Centre County’s affordable housing options

Centre County received $1.37 million to increase affordable housing options through Pennsylvania’s Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement fund, an initiative State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, said will give residents “a place they can call home.”

“These funds will positively impact thousands of residents in Centre County,” Conklin said in a press release. “These funds can be used to provide assistance with rent or utility payments, a down payment or closing costs on a new house or refurbishing abandoned buildings of lots into affordable housing.”

Funding was awarded to Housing Transitions, the State College Borough, Mullin & Lonergan Associates, Inc., State College Community Land Trust and Centre County Government.

Mullin & Lonergan Associates will use the $1,174,000 grant for the development of Cherry Lane Apartments, 102 W. Cherry Lane, in Ferguson Township. The Cherry Lane Apartments will provide 18 units with affordable rent and will provide general occupancy, Scott Elliott, PHFA director of communications, said. Ara Kervandjian, a local developer, submitted an application in November for the project.

“Cherry Lane is going to be a premier building designed for general occupancy workforce rental housing,” Kervandjian said. “The residential infill project will remove two run-down, vacant, single-family homes and replace them with one three-story apartment building.”

Kervandjian said the new building “will not only create a more unified block in which it sits,” but “it will complete a seamless transition between the commercial corridor and duplex residential.”

The first floor of the structure will contain retail, commercial and professional office space, and the second and third floors will house apartment units.

“The below ground level floor contains a large community room with a kitchen, offices, fitness room, library space, tenant storage, common laundry and bike storage,” Kervandjian said. “There is also a central lounge area for residents to enjoy.”

The site will also include parking for tenants and visitors with access from West Cherry Lane.

Construction is expected to being late 2019, and Kervandjian said occupancy is expected by fall 2020.

Impact fees collected from Pennsylvania natural gas companies help create PHARE program funds and address housing shortages caused by the impact of drilling. Two additional funding sources come from the realty transfer tax and money from the National Housing Trust Fund.

PHARE funding provided Housing Transitions with $50,000 to be used for an energy and affordable rental rehab program.

The State College borough received $75,000 in funding for an energy and housing rehabilitation project, and the State College Community Land Trust was granted $50,000 for an energy and housing rehabilitation project. Centre County Government was awarded $22,000 for a PHARE rental assistance program.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said reduced housing helps individuals gain employment, stay employed and afford other resources, adding that “even $100 or $200 can make all the difference.”

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.