Greene County recently received nearly $1 million in state grants for affordable housing options and projects that are underway.
The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund awarded $900,000 to the Greene County Redevelopment Authority. About $800,000 of that will go to the Nineveh Heights project in Morris Township. The other $100,000 will go to the county’s Home Purchase Fund Program to assist first-time home buyers.
“This was a great grant application for both of those areas,” said David Calvario, executive director of the Greene County Redevelopment Authority. “Our goal is to get people into home ownership down the road.”
Calvario said the Nineveh Heights project has been in the works for the last five years and has predominantly been worked on by the Morris Township supervisors.
Supervisor Bob Keller said the project started when Consol donated the property – more than 90 acres off Carter Road – to the township, “with the stipulation that a portion would be undermined and we weren’t allowed to build until 2020.”
Keller said the longwall mining was completed in early 2018, but the two-year buffer was to allow for subsidence. He said the township had lost about 50 homes due to mining, and Consol buying up property.
“One of the problems we have is a declining population,” Keller said. “The decline in my township was 100 percent industrial-caused. The homes were bought out by industry.”
In 2000, the census for Morris Township was 1,040, with a 20 percent growth from 1990 to 2000, Keller said. It was the largest census growth in the county, he said. But the next decade didn’t go as well, dropping to 840 population, the largest census loss in Greene County, Keller said.
“It’s consistently been dropping, and it’s about the industry that drives them out,” he said. “This was predominantly done through coal. It’s been a significant impact on our community.”
Keller said he suspects the township will be in the low 700s by the 2020 census.
“We have to try to revitalize our community,” he said. “I hope this is more than a chance.”
As part of a “community give-back agreement,” Keller said Consol paid for a sewage treatment plant for Nineveh and the development area for the new homes. It cost about $1 million and was “funded predominantly” by Consol, he said.
Morris Township has hired Wind Ridge Engineering to start “laying out the first track” of the housing development, Keller said, which he estimates will be about 26 homes.
“The layout of the development will be done this fall,” Keller said.
The township will pay the engineering costs, which Keller estimated would be around $80,000. So far, they’ve used Act 13 Impact Fee money to cover the costs, he said. The $800,000 grant – one of the first grants they’ve received for the project – will be used for the project’s infrastructure, such as roadways, stormwater management, utility lines and any grading work that may need to be done, Keller said.
Calvario said Threshold Housing Development Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in 1991 by Fayette County Community Action, will be building the homes for the first phase. Threshold Housing provides affordable homes to low-income families in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.
In the potential second and third phases of the Nineveh Heights project, Calvario said private developers might have an opportunity to build there as well.
“I’ve had multiple people over the years ask me when it’s going to be ready,” Keller said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s an affordable place to live.”
First-time home buyers will also benefit with affordable places to live, thanks to the other $100,000 portion of the grant, which was distributed through the Greene County Redevelopment Authority to Blueprints Greene County for the Home Purchase Fund Program.
Jessica Hayjack-Bates, program director of Blueprints, said the $100,000 will be used to assist first-time homebuyers in Greene County with a downpayment or a closing cost fund. Those homebuyers, she said, will need to meet income guidelines in order to be eligible.
“We’re really excited to be able to offer a program like this in Greene County,” Hayjack-Bates said. We want to help as many residents as we can. So many people want to purchase a home, and we can help them make that dream a reality.”