I happen to be privileged to serve on the project loan committee for the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership.
It's an advisory panel to the LHOP board of directors that deals specifically with the money LHOP lends out for affordable housing projects in Lancaster County.
We meet regularly to deliberate over applications for funding and seek to further the goals of LHOP through our recommendations to the board. As someone with a blended background in real estate and municipal issues, I particularly enjoy this challenge. One project in the City of Lancaster has been fulfilling to the committee this fall – the West Strawberry Street block project.
Really, it's a project to rehabilitate a dilapidated property that LHOP acquired from the city – it was a real mess! The renovation project was proposed by a local outreach group called Impact! Missions – a collaborative effort to provide low-cost to free rehab services to folks in need. Matt Beakes, the director of Impact, took us on a tour of the building and we had a chance to meet the many volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, who were digging in to the renovation. You can read the story and watch a clip on it here.
What really gets me excited, however, is the response of the block. Our presence there has sparked a new level of interest on the part of the residents, and the Impact people have had many locals approach them to thank them personally for what they're doing for the neighborhood.
Several neighbors have volunteered on the construction project. Other homes have been identified that could be tackled in the coming months. Student volunteers have gone door to door asking tenants what things they are in need of.
What started as a single home project – the property will ultimately be finished and sold at market price to a first-time buyer – has expanded into a "building block," perhaps for real long-term improvement in that small corner of Lancaster.