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Some homes in shale areas to get help

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Westmoreland County will spend $125,000 next year to rehabilitate private homes in communities with Marcellus shale gas wells.

Westmoreland was one of 19 counties to receive grant funding from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency from a pool of cash accrued from impact fees assessed on the gas wells throughout the state.

The money will be used to pay for a pilot program to upgrade and make repairs to as many as 12 private homes so they can be brought up to code, according to Terri Yurcisin, deputy director of Westmoreland County's planning department.

Homes in Derry, Hempfield, Sewickley, South Huntingdon and Washington townships, all areas with Marcellus shale wells, will initially be eligible for the money.

“We see it as a good start to get the older housing stock more stable in these communities,” Yurcisin said.

The program could eventually be opened up to homes in other communities, she said.

Details of the program are still being devised, but it is likely that homeowners will eventually be required to pay back the grant once a property is sold or transferred to another owner, according to Yurcisin.

The state housing agency awarded nearly $7.6 million in Marcellus shale program grants. Bryce Maretzki, finance officer at the agency, said 29 projects were considered for grants.

“The goal of the fund is to mitigate the impact on housing in local communities related to Marcellus shale drilling,” Maretzki said.

Other counties receiving grants include:

• Fayette County — $300,000 for the construction of 36 single-family, low- and moderate-income housing units in Redstone.

• Indiana County — $155,000 to help build six housing units as part of a homeless veterans housing complex in White.

• Washington County — $625,000 for a project to convert the Washington Trust Building into a mixed-use 36-unit rental property for all income levels.

Maretzki said the program is expected to have about $10 million available in grants next year.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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