The Franklin County Commissioners expanded their efforts to support affordable homes in local communities by allocating $10,000 in Housing Trust Funds to Waynesboro Community and Human Services (WCHS) to pilot its Safe Housing Fund. The commissioners approved the allocation during the board’s Sept. 14 public meeting.
WCHS works with low-income families in the Greencastle-Antrim and Waynesboro Area school districts who are facing eviction or deteriorating living conditions. The Safe Housing Fund supports that mission by investing in small-scale repairs to existing homes. By improving the livability of existing homes, WCHS is working to prevent evictions, especially when making modest repairs means families can remain in their homes.
Through the Safe Housing Fund, WCHS can increase the number of homes eligible for the federally funded Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program. ESG covers past-due rent and utility payments for eligible individuals and families and, in situations where homelessness has already occurred or is not preventable, covers security deposits and the first month’s rent. However, houses or apartments must pass a federally defined safety inspection to be eligible for ESG funding. In situations where the family can’t afford to make necessary improvements to pass inspection, WCHS uses the Safe Housing Fund to pay for the improvements, thus allowing the ESG funds to be released to help with temporary rent and utilities assistance.
The Safe Housing Fund
Through the Safe Housing Fund, owners or renters whose house or apartment fails an ESG safety inspection are offered a 50% match, up to $1,000, to make repairs to bring homes into compliance. In return, owners must sign an agreement to continue using the house or apartment as affordable living space for three years following the repairs. In doing so, families can remain in their homes, units are brought up to code, and the inventory of safe, affordable homes in Franklin County grows.
Similarly, the Safe Housing Fund also benefits WCHS’s Community Health Nurse Program, which provides in-home care to chronically ill seniors. Like ESG, the nursing program requires an assessment to ensure homes meet the necessary safety standards that will allow patients to live and heal in a healthy environment. When deficiencies are found, seniors often lack the resources or financial means to mitigate issues. Without a remedy, patients continue to live in environments that do not support optimal recovery and health.
The Safe Housing Fund provides 100% funding to address issues discovered during the environmental assessment of owner-occupied units; rental properties are eligible for a 50% match for repairs. Once these improvements are made, patients have an environment that supports recovery and lowers the chance of hospital readmission, saving community health dollars.
“The county established the Housing Trust Fund to support programs and projects that increase the availability of affordable housing to eligible Franklin County residents,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “The WCHS Safe Housing Fund aligns well with that mission, and we’re happy to help individuals and families live in safe, affordable homes without threat of eviction.”
The Housing Trust Fund is generated by fees for filing deeds and mortgages with the Franklin County Recorder of Deeds. Since the Housing Trust Fund’s inception in 2002, Franklin County has allotted more than $2 million to affordable housing projects.