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Affordable senior housing project breaks ground in Ferguson Township

Participating in the groundbreaking Friday, September 26, for Stonebridge Senior Apartments on Bristol Avenue in Ferguson Township, are: Mark Kunkle, Ferguson Township manager; Paul Spring, Affordable Housing Coalition; Brian Schull, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency; Donna Holmes, Northwest Savings Bank; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Glenn Thompson; Bob Poole, Poole Anderson Construction; and Andy Haines, S&A Homes.
Participating in the groundbreaking Friday, September 26, for Stonebridge Senior Apartments on Bristol Avenue in Ferguson Township, are: Mark Kunkle, Ferguson Township manager; Paul Spring, Affordable Housing Coalition; Brian Schull, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency; Donna Holmes, Northwest Savings Bank; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Glenn Thompson; Bob Poole, Poole Anderson Construction; and Andy Haines, S&A Homes. CDT photo

Affordable housing took a step forward Friday in the Centre Region with the groundbreaking for the Stonebridge Senior Apartments on Bristol Avenue.

The 58 units, developed by S&A Homes are slated for completion in November 2015, according to a release by S&A. Residents must be 62 or older and fall between 20 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, about $10,962 to $37,584.

“This is the first senior affordable housing built in the Centre Region in 20 years,” S&A Executive Vice President Andy Haines said Friday. There’s been a tremendous demand at existing apartments. We’ve been looking for a site to build housing for many years.”

Bob Poole, of Poole Anderson Construction, said he’s been a believer in affordable housing in all forms. There’s a special need for senior housing, he said, as seniors are often living on a fixed income.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, said affordable housing is one of the continuing issues facing Centre County. One of the solutions, he said, is partnerships like the one that allowed for the Stonebridge apartments.

S&A teamed with organizations such as the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Northwest Savings Bank and Poole Anderson.

“We have great quality of life in Centre County,” Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said. “The downside is it’s expensive to live here. More and more people want to live here, and that drives up the cost of land and housing.”

While seniors can look forward to these new units, the need for affordable housing crosses all age ranges, according to Affordable Housing Coalition member Paul Spring, who attended Friday’s groundbreaking.

The cost of housing is high in the community, he said, pricing a lot of residents out and forcing them to live elsewhere.

“It doesn’t affect just the poor,” he said, “but a lot of middle income people — bus drivers, barbers, store clerks — they aren’t getting raises and they’re living in substandard housing.”

Spring also said student housing skews the economics of the community, with a lot of housing already going up for students.

The coalition’s message is spreading around the Centre Region. The Patton Township Board of Supervisors heard comments from coalition member LeAnn Houser during the board’s meeting Wednesday.

“There’s a definite lack of affordable housing in the county,” she said.

Mobile home parks are closing, she said, displacing families. Purchasing a house for the first time can cost up to $200,000, making it difficult for those living on a minimum or fixed wage to hope to afford a home.

An inability to afford housing in the community also forces families to live outside the area, she said. They have to drive into the region for work, which becomes an additional financial burden as well as a safety issue.

“We’re looking to gain more affordable housing in this area close to town to provide housing for all those families,” she said.

Formed in 1996, the Affordable Housing Coalition now boasts 33 members representing 63 organizations. The coalition is a combination of businesses, service providers and agencies throughout Centre County that come together to brainstorm how resources can be combined to benefit those in need of housing and educate the public, Houser said.

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