Public-Private Partnership Improves Quality of Life, Access to Affordable Housing in Berks County

Reading, PA – Today, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin and Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development Rick Vilello joined local officials and community leaders to tour the site of a new Habitat for Humanity project to put vacant land to productive use and improve access to affordable housing in Berks County.

Announced by Governor Tom Wolf in November, Neighborhood Assistance Program funding will help Habitat for Humanity Berks County (HFHBC) create a six-year strategy for housing development and neighborhood revitalization in the city of Reading, creating safe and affordable housing. This strategy will include three phases during which nine homes will be constructed and renovated every two years, resulting in 18 homes built for low-income Pennsylvanians.

“When we invest in community development efforts like this one, we are investing in the people who call those communities home, and we can’t truly invest in our communities without also being invested in them,” said Sec. Davin. “The public-private partnerships on display here in Berks County demonstrate that by working together, we can ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to affordable homes and thriving neighborhoods.”

Funded by the state and local partners including Customers Bank and Our City of Reading Foundation, this project highlights the Wolf Administration’s commitment to help rehabilitate communities through unique public-private partnerships.

The vacant land for the new build developments was donated to HFHBC by Our City of Reading Foundation with no overhead cost for the land, allowing project dollars to go directly toward construction costs. Customers Bank will serve as an annual business partner for the project.

The project is part the larger Buttonwood Gateway project, a development initiative that includes the HFHBC homes and 48 rental residences, a community center, park, and vegetable garden. the program strives to create healthy communities that have a foundation in affordable homeownership combined with access to employment, healthcare, and educational resources.

“The public-private partnership approach is truly the correct method as we invest in our urban communities,” said Timothy J. Daley, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Berks County. “When a community like ours has such willing businesses such as Customers Bank and UMPC, then the work to be done becomes very doable and personal. We are proud to work with these businesses and the Wolf Administration on such an innovative program.”

NAP projects complement the priorities set forth by the administration to improve infrastructure and communities across the commonwealth through the Restore Pennsylvania initiative. Restore Pennsylvania, the $4.5 billion bipartisan proposal funded through a commonsense severance tax, will aggressively address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs and is the only plan to make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century. The plan would further bolster community improvement efforts like those currently being invested in through NAP and would help address vacant land and blighted areas across the commonwealth.

In Pennsylvania, vacant and blighted properties create health and safety concerns for citizens and lowering property values and tax revenues. Restore Pennsylvania would fund blight remediation efforts at a level far beyond any existing funding mechanisms currently available and would allow municipalities to direct funding to other economic development projects as needed.

“The Wolf Administration is committed to making Pennsylvania a place where everyone can work smart and live happy, and we can do that by making impactful investments in our communities,” said Sec. Davin. “Initiatives like the Neighborhood Assistance Program and Restore Pennsylvania are perfect examples of impactful investments, as they provide the resources and supports needed to change lives both now and in the future.”

NAP encourages private sector investment into projects that will help improve distressed communities by providing tax credits to businesses that donate capital to support projects that address neighborhood and community problems. NAP can be used for projects in categories including affordable housing, community service, crime prevention, education, job training, charitable food, blight, special population issues, veterans’ initiatives, and long-term revitalization.

For more information about the Wolf Administration’s commitment to community development or DCED, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

J.J. Abbott, Governor’s Office, 717.783.1116
Casey Smith, DCED, 717.783.1132

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