State agency offers funding for small scale, mixed-use projects

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency said it issued a request for proposals for new construction or the rehabilitation of mixed-use projects seeking financial support. This year, its focus is on smaller cities such as Bethlehem, Reading and Harrisburg.

The Homestead Bakery Building in Homestead, Allegheny County, has an ice cream manufacturing facility and retail on the ground floor and 20 units of housing on the upper floors. It’s an example of a project funded by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. (Submitted) –

Funding for these projects comes from the state’s Community Revitalization Fund program, said Bryce Maretzki, director of planning and policy at the PHFA.

The state government created the funding program as part of the fiscal year 2017-18 budget.

The state offers a mixed-use development tax credit of $3 million each year, Maretzki said.

“The agency takes bids on those credits and sells those credits to investors and then uses the proceeds of the sale of the credits to fund the program and ultimately, the projects that apply,” Maretzki said.

The agency plans to fund five to six projects this year.

Last year, it received nine applications and funded seven of those projects, he said.

The agency funded $400,000 toward each project. These projects typically have a total cost of $2 million to $8 million, he added.

This year, the agency will prioritize smaller third-class cities, he said.

The projects can be either new construction or mixed-use projects that combine residential and retail/commercial space in the same building and often serve as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, he said.

“We have funded anywhere from five to 20 units on the residential side,” Maretzki said.

On the commercial/retail side, the agency has funded projects in the range of 1,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

Examples of projects eligible for funding include:

  • Those that rehabilitate older or under-used buildings for immediate re-use to support other community development goals;
  • Those that prepare for commercial build-out and business lease space;
  • Projects that design and convert existing buildings;
  • Those that provide additional units of housing by combining uses in a single newly constructed or renovated building.

Overall, the agency views the program as a way to help revitalize areas with mixed-use projects, particularly in urban areas.

“We think it really helps as cities are looking to revitalize,” Maretzki said. “We think there’s more and more interest in doing residential and more of that is affordable that has been traditionally unused.

It’s another way communities can add housing and revitalize their commercial business corridor.”

Traditionally, municipalities have separated residential uses from commercial, but Maretzki sees that changing.

Across the Commonwealth, more areas are seeing mixed-use projects with residential uses on the upper floors and commercial/retail space below.

“More and more I think we are seeing the two can work hand in hand,” Maretzki said.

The applicants can be for-profit companies, nonprofits, governmental agencies and economic development organizations, he added.

The deadline for submissions is 2 p.m. on Oct. 18.

Information is available at the PHFA website: https://www.phfa.org/mhp/developers/loans.aspx.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh.

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