Funding sought to fix up 3 houses



By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A blighted and abandoned street will be getting some much needed help.
Lawrence County commissioners are expected to vote next week on a request for 50,000 to help rehabilitate homes on New Castle's east side.
Cray Youth & amp; Family Services has asked for the money from the county's Affordable Housing Fund, a fund derived from fees paid each time a piece of property is sold in the county. The state mandates those funds can only be used to assist in housing rehabilitation for low-income people.
Roger Smith, a consultant for Cray, told commissioners the agency wants to rehabilitate three homes on the 200 block of North Crawford Street and then sell them to low-to-moderate income families at 35,000 to 40,000 per house.
The homes, all vacant and in need of repair, are near others built four years ago by Lawrence County Habitat for Humanity.
"The neighbors [in the habitat houses] are very anxious to see something happen with these houses," Smith said.
Cray, a social service agency that has traditionally helped rehabilitate youth, wants to move in a new direction by offering housing, Smith said.
Also teaching program
The plan includes finding six unemployed young adults interested in the construction trade to work with the contractor on the project, he said. The program will be based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Youthbuild" program. In addition to teaching them about construction, Cray will also identify any academic deficits and work with them in literacy and GED preparation courses, he said.
Smith said Cray is also seeking a 70,000 loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh for the project. He said they hope to take the profit from these first three houses and repeat the project.
He noted they were seeking an area where they could rehabilitate an entire block rather than houses on various streets.
"We wanted to rehabilitate an entire neighborhood. We wanted to have more of a dramatic effect," he said.
Contractor Philip Williamson said they intend to complete the work this year and sell the homes. "I think this will do a lot for the upper east side," Williamson said.
County commissioners agreed. "I think this is wonderful. It couldn't be a better use for the money," Commissioner Ed Fosnaught said.
Commissioner Steve Craig said he was impressed that the project will be helping six young adults find a trade. "For six kids, this will make all the difference in their lives," he said.
cioffi@vindy.com

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