County to host consortium

Local residents, public officials and service agencies will all have the chance to weigh in on local housing needs at an upcoming public forum about a federal housing grant program.

Representatives from the Lancaster County HOME Consortium will hold several public meetings across a four-county area, including one at 2 p.m. Aug. 18 in Lancaster City Council chambers, 216 S. Catawba St.

The consortium is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which is being administered locally by the Catawba Regional Council of Governments.

As part of the requirements of the HUD program, the consortium is developing a Consolidated Plan/Action Plan and needs public input to determine the housing needs of each of the member counties.

The HOME program, according to HUD, provides formula grants to states and local governments to fund activities such as building, buying or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people.

The locally formed Lancaster County HOME Consortium, which includes Lancaster, Chester and Union counties, as well as the city of Rock Hill and town of Fort Mill, was created to receive about $2.1 million in HOME funds over the next three years to be used for housing and housing-related activities. Lancaster County will serve as the lead county.

Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said the HOME Consortium is a parallel grant program to COG’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, though it is specifically geared toward creating affordable housing for low-income households.

“We’re doing this on a regional basis and it was our turn to be the lead county for the area including Chester, York, Lancaster and Union counties,” Willis said.

“The big advantage to having our own consortium is that developers can not only apply through the statewide pool for funds, but are also eligible to apply for these regional consortium funds as well.”

Cathy Rose Hicklin, who is serving as the COG’s HOME liaison for the local consortium, said the program has the potential to send positive ripples throughout the member counties.

“There are many opportunities for helping people while being a good steward with federal money,” she said.

“Not only does this program provide affordable housing for people, the often invisible benefits are the construction jobs the work creates, revenue for retail business suppliers, property management company opportunities and other support services for employers and income for employees. The government also benefits through stable property tax values/rates.”

Hicklin encourages a wide variety of people to attend the forums, including residents, county or municipal employees, elected officials, public and private agencies, contractors and developers, as well as members of nonprofit organizations, schools and religious or civic groups.

“We want to hear from the public, from people who feel the direct impact and the people who give their time to service organizations because they are the feet and eyes on the ground and can see how to address housing needs,” she said. “We need to hear from them and ask them what do we need. What kind of housing do we need – houses or apartments?

“Housing is my passion and I want people in homes they can afford.”

By Christopher Sardelli, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News