ABCD and City of Altoona Eye Housing Project

by | May 1, 2024 | News

Housing remains an economic development priority for our region. We are continuing to look at all options to prepare and improve sites, places and spaces for new investment. Read on from the article as it appeared in the May 1, 2024 edition of The Altoona Mirror by William Kibler:

The Altoona Blair County Development Corp. is working with the city Redevelopment Authority/Land Bank to raise money from locally active banks for a housing development project on the 200 block of Beech Avenue – a pilot effort that could turn into an annual program.

Five banks have committed $135,000 in contributions so far toward a goal of between $150,000 and $300,000 for the prep work, which could incentivize a private developer to take on the housing construction, according to ABCD CEO Steve McKnight.

Perhaps five 1.5-story, single-family, market-rate cottages could be built on the ground, which was cleared long ago, is owned by the Redevelopment Authority and comprises all but the two lots closest to Third Street on the east side of Beech, said RA member and City Councilman Ron Beatty.

Under the state’s Neighborhood Assistance Program, the banks would receive up to 75% of the value of their contributions in tax credits, according to McKnight.

All nine banks that ABCD has contacted are impressed with the project, although some have reached their contribution limit for their fiscal years, McKnight said.

The application for the tax credit funding is due at the end of June, when the state’s fiscal year ends, McKnight said.

The parties would like to attain at least the lower end of the funding target, but if not, will probably apply for the tax credits anyway, “to do as much as we possibly can,” McKnight said.

It’s still to be determined whether the effort for the next fiscal year would be to supplement the credits they may get for the Beech Avenue project or move on to a second project, McKnight said.

The prep could involve utility line extensions, including water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and electric, as well as public space improvements like sidewalks, trees and lighting, according to McKnight.

The idea for the project grew “collectively” from ABCD and city officials, according to McKnight.

“We envisioned a project to help seed the Land Bank,” he said.

ABCD’s liaison with the state Department of Community and Economic Development supports the concept, McKnight said.

Under the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977, banks are expected to serve “the convenience and needs of their local communities,” according to an article on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency website.

“(The) CRA is designed to encourage banks to help rebuild and revitalize communities through sound lending and good business judgment that benefits the banks and the communities they serve,” the article states.

Federal regulators, including the OCC, “assess the record of each bank in fulfilling its obligation to the community and to consider that record in evaluating and approving applications for charters, bank mergers, acquisitions, and branch openings” – although without requiring those banks to reach prescribed ratios or benchmarks, according to the article.

ABCD is not charging the city for its efforts on the project, McKnight said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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