Project Narrative – York Habitat for Humanity Chestnut Street Revitalization Project

York Habitat for Humanity has been in existence for 34 years in York County. In that time, the non-profit organization has been involved in moving low to moderate income families into new and rehabbed homes, making them homeowners for the first time. York Habitat has completed 136 of these projects and has directly affected the lives of more than 600 men, women and children in need of safe, decent, affordable housing. Indirectly, York Habitat has had an impact on every resident of York, PA and York County by adding more than $12 million in new housing values to the tax rolls.

York Habitat works on several housing projects at all times. The work Habitat does each year makes up its entire program. York Habitat continuously combines efforts to create new opportunities to make sure low-income families are given an opportunity for home ownership. The 2020 project listed in this proposal, Chestnut Street Revitalization Project, Phase 2, will make a substantial impact on available, new, low-income housing in York County by constructing new homes and the revitalization of existing housing in the form of critical home repairs.

In an effort to gain support for Phase 2 of York Habitat’s most ambitious endeavor in its history, York Habitat for Humanity will be asking for a total $500,000 in DCED HOME funding to help build six new homes on the 700 block of Chestnut Street in York City. The funds requested will be earmarked to help with the construction and construction materials for all of the homes in this project. This block of Chestnut Street has basically been abandoned and blighted since a fire destroyed all homes on the entire block more than 10 years ago.

York Habitat will also be undertaking a large scale Critical Home Repair element for this project. This separate portion of the project will include 10 properties in the immediate area that are in need of repairs to help the homeowners remain in their homes. York Habitat will focus on the needs of senior home owners in the area as a means of preventing homelessness and to allow aging in place. The Home repair element of this project will not be included in the funds sought through DCED.

York Habitat for Humanity is projecting to start Phase 2 of the Chestnut Street Revitalization Project in the middle of 2020, after the completion of the first four homes, Phase 1, earlier in the year. The homes in Phase 2 will be either 3, 4 or 5 bedroom units depending on the size of the Habitat families in the program. These home will be three stories with basement. From start to finish, York Habitat’s program takes an average of 18 months for the families to complete. Construction on this project is expected to be completed in early 2021.

There is a great need for affordable housing in the York County area. Recent surveys show that more than 10% of residents in York County are at or below the poverty level. In York City, that number more than doubles to an astonishing 23%. In a market study commissioned by York Habitat for Humanity and done this year, 2019, the area surrounding this project shows that 40.9% of the residents are at or below the poverty level and on government assistance. York Habitat’s program looks to lift families into a home ownership situation while getting them off government assistance.

These Habitat homes stand up to rigorous inspections for quality of construction and that the plans meet and succeed all local planning and zoning ordinances. York Habitat goes to great lengths to make sure that all new construction falls into the local development plan for the city.

The Habitat for Humanity model is fairly simple. Habitat works with families who are currently in a poverty situation and a relationship is formed. The family must qualify as far as income is concerned by falling between 30% and 80% of the annual median income for the area. The family must agree to partner with Habitat and each adult must perform 225 hours of sweat equity. These homeowners must also participate in classes aimed at helping all new home owners with budgets, finances and maintenance of a new property.

Once that is completed and the home is finished, the home owners enter into a mortgage agreement with York Habitat. The mortgage payments do not include any fees or interest and will never be more than 30% of the homeowner’s income. Habitat for Humanity will also work with each new home owner to secure closing costs for the home buyer. This payment is usually around $5,000 per property. The York Habitat for Humanity model is truly “A Hand Up, Never a Hand Out” program.

Habitat will also keep the costs of this project as low as possible by seeking other investors. Businesses and organizations invest in Habitat’s program with cash and in-kind donations. This project will also leverage funds from local, federal, public and private sources to maximize the effort in this endeavor. Thousands of others will join Habitat’s ranks as volunteer labor to help Habitat build these new homes and stronger futures. On average, it takes York Habitat 4,000 volunteer hours to build a Habitat home.

York Habitat for Humanity plans to work closely with the Northeast Neighborhood Association and several local churches to inform the public as to what the project will mean to the area and the neighborhood. A meeting has been slated for December 7, 2019 at a local church for residents of the Chestnut Street build area, to keep the public informed on the upcoming construction as well as the repair program.

York Habitat for Humanity has worked closely with York City’s Redevelopment Authority to secure some of the lots necessary to complete this project. According to the Redevelopment Authority, York Habitat for Humanity is the only developer currently dedicated to building low-income housing for ownership in the entire city of York, PA.

York City and York Habitat are working together in providing long-term stability for this neighborhood.

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