PLAINS TWP. — The Luzerne County Housing Authority hasn’t even started to build the townhouse project on Main Street for the elderly, but there is already a strong interest in the units.
If all goes as planned, the more than $1 million project could be completed by the end of 2014, said Dave Fagula, the housing authority’s executive director.
The authority purchased the slightly more than one-acre parcel two years ago for $135,000 and spent another $50,000 to demolish the former Sacred Heart Church and convent with the intent of building a project twice the size as the one its about to undertake. But lack of funding forced the authority to scale back its plans.
A combination of federal, state and authority funds will be used to build the six rental units. They’ll each have about 1,000 square feet of space, including a kitchen, separate bedroom and bathroom located on one floor and an attached garage. They will be handicapped-accessible.
An 18-unit complex of single-story houses on Second Street in Plains Township has a waiting list, and people have been asking for townhouses instead of the high-rise apartment buildings.
“I know I could fill them,” Fagula said Thursday while discussing the project. “There are already people on our waiting list who have applied for it.”
The largest share of money — $600,000 — is coming from the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds designated for low-income housing. Another $400,000 is coming from the Act 137 funds that sets aside a portion of real estate transaction recording fees and deposits them into an account held by the county Office of Community Development. The authority is contributing $300,000.
Fagula explained that the federal funding comes with strings attached.
“When you use these HOME dollars,” he said, “you can only charge a certain amount of rent.” In this case, the townhouses will be available to people over the age of 62 in an income bracket below 80 percent of the median income.
The rent will be market-based rather than on a person’s income as is done with many of the authority’s units. Fagula estimated that the monthly rent would not exceed $550.
The townhouses will be staggered downhill with the terrain, and the project will take advantage of the views of the area. The property had a small grotto that Fagula said will be made into a park that features the nearly 2,000-pound bell salvaged from the church.