Journal of Housing & Community Development

Award of Excellence: Phoenix Court Apartments

May 24, 2019

The Housing Authority of Northumberland County (HANC) wins a 2018 Award of Excellence in Community Revitalization for developing the Phoenix Court Apartments for low-income seniors. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

For many years, Northumberland County had experienced population decline and severe disinvestment due to the loss of jobs in the anthracite coal mining industry. The loss of workers and the decline in the local economy led to an aging housing stock, blighted sites, and abandoned properties that brought down property values throughout the county, especially in the lower anthracite region of Atlas, Pa. 

HANC stepped forward to spearhead an inclusive initiative that both blight and also compiled the resources other agencies needed to tackle this issue throughout the county. They hosted summits and numerous strategy meetings in order to provide other agencies with critical information and tools they could use to address blight and blighting influences in the area. After several meetings and discussions, it became clear that they needed a game-changing reinvestment project to kickstart the area’s revitalization. 
In order to create a successful “game-changing” project HANC established the following goals:

  • Construct attractive and affordable housing for low-income seniors 
  • Upgrade the streetscape by improving the sidewalks and curbing in the public right-of-way; 
  • Increase private investment in the neighborhood by encouraging property improvements including exterior painting, porch repairs, and improved yard maintenance; and 
  • Improve real estate property values by eliminating blighted properties. 

After a fire severely damaged a few of the blighted properties, HANC and their partners acquired the fire-damaged sites along with all the other blighted properties on that block and packaged them together to construct the Phoenix Court Apartments. 

Several organizations collaborated on the project. Their contributions include: 

  • Northumberland County: $100,000 in Act 137 (Affordable Housing Trust Fund) funds; $40,000 in CDBG funding; and $55,000 in Health Choices Reinvestment federal funds;
  • Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development: $603,000 in HOME funds;
  •  Housing Authority of Northumberland County provided five housing vouchers 
  • Mt. Carmel Township: purchased properties, provided land development approval and waived application fees
  • Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh: $72,500 in AHP funding
  • FNB Bank: $45,000 construction financing/FHLB application member application

The apartment complex has five neighborhood-style units with supportive services including:

  • Case management
  • Employment training 
  • Financial literacy/budgeting
  • Literacy/GED
  • Financial assistance

The redevelopment of the blighted properties was a success. In order to prevent future blight, HANC upgraded the area’s code enforcement. Private investment in the neighborhood increased, and the current property owners began to make improvements to their properties as pride in the neighborhood grew. Lastly, real estate property values increased by 10-15 percent based on recent property sales. 

HANC and their partners helped reverse years of disinvestment, population decline, and blight by reinvesting in their community and inspiring others to do the same. 

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