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TNP, land bank get $840,000 grant for housing

4 new homes will be built in Niles; 4 rehabbed in Warren

WARREN — Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the Trumbull County Land Bank, which TNP manages, have received two grants totaling nearly $840,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Program.

TNP Executive Director Matt Martin said one grant for approximately $272,000 will be used to renovate four single-family houses in TNP’s “targeted areas” in the city of Warren. Once the houses are rehabilitated, they will be sold at an average price of $36,250. Buyers must be low-to-moderate income to qualify for the reduced-price home and agree to live in it for at least three years, Martin said.

He said since 2013, TNP has rehabilitated 30 vacant properties in Warren.

“We’re grateful for the funding and look forward to the opportunity to save four more vacant houses and create home ownership for our residents,” Martin said.

He said based on past experience, it costs an average of $70,000 to rehabilitate each house and the grant will be used to bridge the gap between the reduced selling price and the project cost. Martin said that is how all of TNP’s housing rehabilitation grants work.

He said for the past 10 years, TNP and the land bank have worked with Warren officials to demolish hundreds of blighted homes, but the agency will start focusing more on rehabilitating homes now that a bulk of the vacant ones have been removed.

“We know there is still a lot of vacant and blighted homes in the city, but we can’t tear down everything,” Martin said, noting each house acquired by the land bank is assessed for its viability to determine if it is worth saving. He said the assessments are “done in a vacuum” and TNP does not look at the value of homes on the same street or even in the same neighborhood to determine whether to rehabilitate or tear down.

“It’s about the condition. If we think a house is worth saving, we will,” Martin said.

The second grant, approximately $528,000, is for the land bank, which will partner with Cedar Avenue Homes to build four new single-family homes on blighted, vacant land in Niles. Realtor Jason Altobelli is the developer and he said the land is four contiguous parcels between Cedar and Cherry streets, across from the Hope House, which was recently rehabilitated by the Avenue and Main organization in Niles.

Altobelli said the ranch-style homes will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms and will be sold for $60,000 each. He said other homes in that area have a market value of $98,000.

Martin said because the lots are owned by the land bank, the buyers must be low-to-moderate income and also agree to live in the home for three years. He said this is the first new home project that TNP — and subsequently the land bank — has undertaken.

“While TNP is focused on Warren, the land bank is countywide and we don’t favor any one community. I give kudos to Niles for asking for the money and having a plan,” Martin said.

He said several years ago, Warren received funds to do a housing assessment that was used to create a plan for targeted demolitions. Niles did not qualify for the money because of income guidelines, so several dozen volunteers from the community had TNP come in and train them how to do assessments and the volunteers did a housing stock inventory themselves.

Altobelli said he has worked with TNP on housing rehabilitation projects before and the new home project came about through an “evolution of conversation.” He said all the building permits still need to be obtained, but Niles officials are aware — and supportive — of the project.

“This project is a great collaborative effort to construct new affordable housing in the city of Niles. Beyond that, this project may help provide the framework for future opportunities throughout the area for providing sustainable home ownership,” Altobelli said.

mkosinski@tribtoday.com

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