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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 96-489



Communities of Opportunity Program

[26 Pa.B. 1392]

   The Department of Community Affairs (DCA), or its successor is announcing the availability of 1996 State Housing and Redevelopment Assistance (H&RA) funds as part of a new program entitled Communities of Opportunity. These funds will be awarded through a competitive application process.

   The awarding of 1996 Housing and Redevelopment Assistance funds is contingent upon receipt of an appropriation from the General Assembly.

   The Department is adopting a comprehensive community-development based strategy that recognizes communities as a key component contributing to rebuilding the economic strength of the Commonwealth. Just as conditions that diminish a community's ability to create economic opportunity are interrelated, so are the solutions that enhance economic and social development.

   The Department seeks to utilize H&RA funds in 1996 to support local initiatives designed to promote the stability of its communities, and to assist communities in achieving and maintaining social and economic diversity, ensuring a productive tax base and a good quality of life.

   The creation of local partnerships of municipal agencies, the financial community and for profit and not for profit organizations is encouraged.

   The Communities of Opportunity Program and the State's HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program will operate separate funding rounds for this grant cycle. The HOME Program is the Department's major low income housing assistance program. As such, H&RA will not typically be used to match HOME funds nor will HOME eligible activities in nonparticipating jurisdictions be eligible for H&RA funding.

   The Department strongly encourages community-based organizations, public agencies, business leaders, private developers, financial institutions and private citizens to create partnerships with eligible applicants to prepare programs for submission which examine their approach to meeting locally defined needs. The Department encourages a comprehensive approach which integrates all available resources. HUD Entitlement and the Commonwealth's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships Programs are all excellent sources of flexible dollars to address locally-identified needs. Applicants are encouraged to use CDBG, HOME and other public and private programs to complement Community of Opportunity Program applications.

Overview of the Application Process

   DCA's Bureau of Housing and Development, Division of Communities Development is responsible for administering the Community of Opportunity Program in accordance with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Housing and Redevelopment Assistance Law (Act 477 of 1955). Housing and Community Development analysts in DCA's regional offices are prepared to answer Community of Opportunity Program-related questions.

   There are two major categories of funding assistance under the Communities of Opportunity Program--Community Development and Housing Assistance. Both of these will be described in detail.

   Eligible activities previously considered under the Downtown Pennsylvania Program will be eligible during the 1996 funding round under the Community Development category. The exception to this is new first year Main Street Manager applicants. The Commonwealth will not be accepting applications for new Main Street Manager Programs during this funding round. Plans are to evaluate this program during the 1996-97 year. Funding commitments to second and third year Main Street communities will continue unabated. These communities will be informed when to apply for second and third year funds.

Changes in Operating Procedures

   The 1996 Communities of Opportunity Program project expenditures will be charged to the State fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) during which the actual expenditues are incurred. Because the H&RA appropriation is currently a 1 year lapsing appropriation, the cost of multiyear projects must be allocated among several fiscal year appropriations.

   In addition, 1996 H&RA contract payments will be limited to each grantee's immediate cash needs to fund eligible project expenditures. Long term lump sum advances will not be approved.

   1996 H&RA funds not expended by the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 1997) will automatically lapse. Therefore, any contract funds budgeted but not drawn down prior to June 30, 1997 by a grantee may be forfeited.

   Finally, the funding of project costs budgeted beyond the current appropriation year is contingent upon the future appropriation of adequate spending authority by the General Assembly.

   The above factors should be taken into consideration when designing local programs. A ''Project Budget by Fiscal Year'' form has been included in this year's application requirements to clarify the annual demand on H&RA funds. Given this scenario, it is crucial that applications selected for funding approval contain all necessary documentation for immediate contracting.

   There are certain State compliance areas explained in the contract, such as the adoption of a Minority and Women's Business Enterprise Plan, that may also affect the administration of any project. A sample contract can be obtained from the regional or central office.

Competitive Review Process

   The Department completes competitive reviews of applications to make final funding decisions. Program design descriptions and staff capacity will be carefully evaluated to ensure that grants will be administered in a timely manner and according to program requirements.

   All successful grantees will be required to attend regional grant recipient training seminars.

   The following programmatic factors should be kept in mind when preparing applications:

   All programs should be structured to maximize the return of program income (principal and interest) to the Commonwealth. Local revolving loan programs will not be permitted.

   The Department has established a minimum application amount of $25,000.

   The Department will not typically permit State H&RA funds to be used as HOME match in 1996 applications for State administered HOME funds.

   The Department will not permit H&RA funds to be placed in HOME participating jurisdiction ''match banks.''

   If sewer or water system activities are included as part of a Communities of Opportunity Program project, mandatory tap-ins are required. Only tap-in fees for very-low and low-income families or individuals may be included as an eligible budget cost.

   Moderate housing rehabilitation projects under the Communities of Opportunity Program must comply with HUD Section 8 Housing Quality Rehabilitation Standards.

Eligible Applicants

   General purpose units of local governments such as counties, cities, boroughs, townships and home rule municipalities.

   City and county housing authorities and redevelopment authorities.

   Nonprofit housing corporations. Only nonprofit housing corporations with projects located in Participating Jurisdictions may apply directly to DCA under provisions of section 4(d) and 4(e) of the Housing and Redevelopment Assistance Law.

   Please Note:  Nonprofits in the Cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are not eligible to apply directly for H&RA funds.

Community Development Category

   Community development activities can be defined as those necessary for community to enhance quality of life and/or to become competitive for business retention, expansion and attraction. These activities should contribute to achieving the highest level of community livability. Applications that propose to revitalize distressed areas or meet critical community needs must show their relationship with a larger community strategy. Direct linkages to job creation or retention, especially to those jobs that are ''family sustaining'' will be considered during the review process.

   Applications under the Community Development category generally should clearly demonstrate the following:

   *  A clear public benefit;

   *  Significant leverage of other dollars;

   *  Evidence of need for the assistance in order to complete the project;

   *  Evidence that the need cannot be financed locally;

   *  Evidence that other funding sources are unavailable; and

   *  Evidence that the activity supports a larger and more comprehensive community development strategy (either existing documents or developed narrative).

   If H&RA funds are being proposed for acquisition, evidence should be available to support market value. In most cases this would entail getting at least one appraisal.

   1.  Community Revitalization

   The examples below illustrate the type of projects that are eligible for assistance under this subcategory. Applications may be submitted for the following projects as well as other projects which results in community revitalization:

   *  The construction or reconstruction of infrastructure;

   *  The performance of other site improvements where the improvement will provide direct benefit to other coordinated community improvement efforts;

   *  The rehabilitation or restoration of older or under-utilized buildings for immediate reuse which will support other community development goals;

   *  The extension or service through public rights-of way that is, paving or widening of access roads and upgrading water, sanitary or storm sewers. The improvement must have a documented beneficial impact on the community; or

   *  The acquisition and demolition of a blighted structure when there is a reuse plan which has been adopted by the community for the cleared site and a private development commitment is secured.

   2.  Commercial Revitalization

   The examples below illustrate the type of projects that are eligible for this subcategory. Applications may be submitted for the following projects as well as other projects which result in commercial revitalization:

   *  Business District Authority (Act 41) Assistance ($25,000 is also the minimum application amount (pg. 9)) to carry out activities identified in the available only to those BDAs that are currently doing assessments;

   *  Restoring or improving commercial building facades in historic districts or central business districts through a subsidized loan program;

   *  Rehabilitating or restoring older or under utilized buildings for immediate reuse, creating job opportunities and/or supporting commercial revitalization goals;

   *  Improving sites in a commercial target area that are part of an overall strategy for revitalization.

Housing Assistance Category

   The Commonwealth's HOME Investment Partnerships Program is the Department's major low income housing program. Since H&RA funds are limited, we are this year encouraging applicants to submit applications for unique or innovative housing assistance projects or programs which cannot be funded with HOME funds. These projects or programs should be those that contribute to local, county or regional strategic community development plans. H&RA should not be looked to for low income housing assistance in nonparticipating jurisdictions. In the same stead, applicants with projects located in participating jurisdictions must provide evidence that their own HOME funds are not available for the activity proposed.

   Housing assistance can be available for residents up to 115% of county median if supported by the strategic plan. H&RA financial assistance is eligible as part of the units themselves or in support of public improvements or off-site improvements that are essential to the housing activities.

   The linking of housing and supportive services is required if appropriate.

   The Department will not accept applications for multi-family housing projects over four units. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency is the Commonwealth multifamily housing agency.

   If H&RA funds are being proposed for acquisition, evidence should be available to support market value. Inmost cases this would entail getting at least one appraisal.

   Note:  New construction or modernization of conventional public housing is ineligible for H&CD assistance.

   Only nonprofit agencies with projects located in participating jurisdictions are eligible to apply directly for certain types of activities. Section 4(d) identifies financially supplementing Federal housing programs in an amount not to exceed 10% of the total cost of a proposed project. Section 4(e) deals with assistance for single family dwelling units which are in a state for disrepair, rehabilitating and reselling them to persons or families with very low or low incomes. Contact your regional H&RA analysts for guidance regarding the eligibility of proposed activities under section 4(d) or (e) of the law.

   The following examples illustrate the types of activities that are eligible for housing assistance grants. Applications may be submitted for the following activities, as well as other activities, which result in the creation or preservation of affordable housing units.

   *  Acquisition, rehabilitation, and/or new construction of housing which result in homeowner or rental opportunities (under 4 units);

   *  Provision of site improvements to support new construction of housing units;

   *  Rehabilitation of owner-occupied residential properties;

   *  Acquisition, rehabilitation and resale of housing units;

   *  Public improvements to support the rehabilitation or housing units;

   *  Acquisition of units which results in their preservation.

Submission Dates

   The Department of Community Affairs will accept applications through the five DCA Regional Offices (addresses appear at the end of this notice). One original and two copies of the application must be received in the Regional Office, with one copy to the Central Office by the close of business May 31, 1996. No applications will be accepted after 5 p.m., May 31, 1996. Transmittals by facsimile (fax) machine will not be accepted.

Training Sessions

   The Department will conduct a 1/2 day workshop at three locations during the month of April. The H&RA session will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the following locations:

April 2nd--Holiday Inn Scranton/East Dunmore
200 Tigue Street
I-380 Exit 1 (Tigue Street)
(717) 343-4771

April 9th--Holiday Inn--Harrisburg/Hershey Area
I-81 at Exit 28
(717) 469-0661

April 11th--Days Inn Conference Center Butler
139 Pittsburgh Road
PA Tpke. Exit 4 to Route 8 North
(412) 287-6761

Application Forms

   Application forms and instructions may be obtained by contacting the Department's regional offices. Persons with a disability who wish to submit an application in accordance with the provisions stated herein and who require assistance with the application and persons who require copies of this notice in an alternative format (large type, braille, and the like) should contact David Chittister, Room 507 Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120, telephone (717) 787-7156 to discuss how the Department may best accommodate their needs. The following is the listing of DCA Regional Offices and the counties they serve:

Region 1--Southeast
Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties

Department of Community Affairs
908 State Office Building
Broad and Spring Garden Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 560-2256

Region 2-Northeast
Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties

Department of Community Affairs
Suite 201 Samters Building
101 Penn Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503-2025
(717) 963-4571

Region 3--Southcentral and Region 4--Northcentral
Region 3--Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties

Region 4--Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Somerset and Union counties.

Department of Community Affairs
402 Finance Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-7347

Region 5--Southwest

Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties

Department of Community Affairs
413 State Office Building
300 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 565-5002

Region 6--Northwest

Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Venango and Warren counties

Department of Community Affairs
Third Floor--Rothrock Building
121 West 10th Street
Erie, PA 16501
(814) 871-4241

Central Office

Fifth Floor--Forum Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-7156


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 96-489. Filed for public inspection March 29, 1996, 9:00 a.m.]

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