NEW CASTLE, PA. County mulls change for public housing

Some housing authority members want the Grant Street public housing in the program instead.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Within the next few weeks, the Lawrence County Housing Authority must decide if it wants to eliminate public housing units at Neshannock Village as part of a federal program to integrate residents living there into neighborhoods.
The first of four meetings was Wednesday night with Neshannock Village residents to explain the program, called Hope VI, which would take away their current barracks-style apartments and provide them with single-family homes in residential neighborhoods.
The property that now houses Neshannock Village would become available to private developers to build middle-income housing.
But housing authority members aren't sure they want to give up Neshannock Village.
Authority Chairman Robert Session said numerous residents have asked him not to take away their homes.
Grant Street property
Other authority members felt the housing authority property on Grant Street would be a better choice for the Hope VI program because there are frequent problems with crime there.
"The bottom line is Grant Street has got to go. It's trouble," said James Graves, authority member.
But the consultant hired to get the grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said they will likely have an easier time getting federal funding to replace Neshannock Village.
"We felt [Neshannock Village] had a better selling point because of its relationship to downtown and the downtown revitalization project. The feeling is the location is more capable of receiving market-rate housing," said Cindy Picone, vice president of real estate development for Ralph A. Falbo Inc. of Pittsburgh, the company that has a contract with the housing authority to administer the project.
A private developer will build housing such as apartments or condominiums, and some single-family homes could be built on the property, she said.
Picone is working on a similar project in Farrell, where the Steel City Terrace has been demolished and 74 public housing units, 45 market-rate rental apartments and 26 homes are being built.
Picone said the residents of the 67 Neshannock Village units will either be given vouchers to rent Section 8 housing or new single-family homes will be built for them on the east side of New Castle. They will pay the same rent they are paying now, she added.
New homes
She said they are looking at building the new homes on vacant lots in the area between Ray Street and Croton Avenue.
The program also incorporates help for public housing residents to get off welfare and back to work, she said. Some of the services offered could include instruction on life skills or job tutoring.
Piccone said the housing authority must decide if it will pursue the HUD grant for Neshannock Village or Grant Street in the next few weeks. The final grant application is due in November.
Additional meetings for Neshannock Village residents to learn more are planned for 6 p.m. Sept. 25 and Oct. 21 and noon Oct. 9 and Nov. 5 in the housing authority offices at Neshannock Village.

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