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County approves aid to low income families

SCRANTON – Low income families and the homeless of Lackawanna County will receive a $165,000 boost from the state after Lackawanna County Commissioners unanimously approved the distribution of Act 137 funds at their April 13 meeting.

Act 137, passed by the state legislature in 1992, permits the county to increase fees for recording mortgages and deeds to raise revenue for affordable housing, increasing its availability to residents whose annual income is less than the median income of the county.

Last year, the county collected about $180,000 for housing programs, and approximately $165,000 in funds are anticipated for 2011, Director for Planning and Economic Development Harry D. Lindsay said.

The First-Time-Homebuyer Program, facilitated by Neighborhood Housing Services of Lackawanna County, will receive $110,000; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, provided by the Scranton-Lackawanna Human Development Agency, will receive $40,000; the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, operated by United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, will accept $12,500; and $2,500 is reserved for general administration.

Lindsay said that LIHEAP provided emergency repairs or replacement of malfunctioning furnaces for 11 to 12 low income families in 2010. He also praised the work of UNC on rehabilitating neighborhoods in South Scranton and NHS for never defaulting on any of their loans, due in part to required credit counseling.

“We appreciate the opportunity to continue this important program for modest income families throughout the county. To date, since October 2009, we’ve helped 11 families of modest income become homeowners, facilitating about $1.43 million worth of purchases throughout the county from Carbondale all the way down to Dunmore,” NHS Executive Director Jesse Ergott told commissioners.

Michael Hanley, executive director of UNC, said that his organization obtained a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for $125,000, requiring them to raise a 20 percent local match. They have raised “about half” of that match, and participants must pay a “modest fee” to be in the program.

“This is for eight individuals who have been chronically homeless. They’ve been living on the street many times for a number of years due to special needs that they may have. This brings them off the street, puts them in an apartment, and provides support services for them,” Hanley added.

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