Monroe County lies in the heart of the picturesque Allegheny Mountains. It is rural – there are no stoplights or fast-food restaurants in the entire county – and it is economically disadvantaged. With few employers and limited access to broadband Internet, younger residents seek opportunity elsewhere, leaving behind a growing senior population.
In 2014, seniors represented approximately 16% of the county’s residents, its second largest age demographic, and most could not afford market-rate rents.
With the school district’s donation of the old Greenville School property in 2014, Monroe County Council on Aging (MCCOA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation providing meals, in-home services and transportation for seniors, had an opportunity to expand its services and create additional housing for the county’s senior citizens.
MCCOA embarked on a five-year project to develop the 11-acre property. The plan for the new Greenville Senior Living and Community Center included a senior center, a community and economic center and 16 units of affordable housing. Roughly estimated to cost $3.2 million, the project represented “a huge investment in this very rural, underserved area of West Virginia,” according to Bank of Monroe President and CEO Jim King, who would play an instrumental role in the project’s success.
MCCOA provided $100,000 in seed money and began by converting the old kindergarten annex into a senior center, while its all-volunteer project team began looking for funding to complete the full scope of the five-year project. As team member Skip Heath recalls, “We had a good mix of talent in construction, finance, cost analysis and project management, but little experience with a project of this scale.”
Undaunted, and after a few false starts, the team found the resources it needed to develop the senior housing. West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund provided an initial $20,000 loan for predevelopment, and after discussion with FHLBank Pittsburgh staff, the team approached Bank of Monroe to request its sponsorship of an AHP grant for housing construction.
Established by Congress, AHP provides grants and subsidized loans for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing for households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income. Housing developers partner with FHLBank members to apply for AHP funding, which is offered through an annual competitive funding round.
King explained, “Although we were not familiar with the AHP at the time, we met with the individuals involved and got comfortable with their plan and the program. Ultimately, we are here to support the communities we serve, and the AHP offered a great opportunity to help fund and collaborate on this important project for the Greenville community.”
In 2016, MCCOA received a $650,000 AHP grant from FHLBank and, in 2017, a $700,000 HOME Program loan from West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) to construct two apartment buildings, each with four units of affordable housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities. Construction began in August 2017, and with the successful completion of the first eight units, MCCOA received a second AHP grant of $650,000 in 2018 and a third grant of $730,000 in 2019, enabling the construction of eight more units of housing. Each of the AHP grants supported a separate phase of the project.
In addition to sponsoring the AHP applications, Bank of Monroe provided lines of credit to facilitate the construction.
Completed in 2019, Greenville Senior Living consists of four one-story buildings with four apartments each: one two-bedroom and three one-bedrooms. In addition to wheelchair access, the new homes feature private front and rear porches, energy-efficient appliances and central heating and air conditioning. Residents have easy access to meals, transportation, educational and recreational opportunities, fitness classes and counseling at the nearby senior center.
The campus is also home to Greenville Farm Kitchen, a non-profit organization that processes and distributes hand-crafted foods throughout West Virginia. MCCOA’s original plan for the site will be complete with its conversion of the old school building into a community center, replete with office space and a gym for community and school use.
Heath credits FHLBank and the WVHDF for their critical support in developing the project. “Bottom line, we could not have done this project without WVHDF and FHLBank Pittsburgh. I cannot say enough about both organizations and their staffs.”
While Greenville Senior Housing represents Bank of Monroe’s first experience with AHP, it was not its last. When FHLBank provided down payment assistance to West Virginia homeowners impacted by flooding that ravaged the area in 2016, Bank of Monroe gave loans on the properties. In 2017, King received the Council’s Award from FHLBank for his outstanding work in promoting stability and revitalization.Reflecting on his experience working with FHLBank, King said, “FHLBanks play a huge role across the country. There are so many places in our area that can benefit from their funding and support, and we are fortunate that FHLBank Pittsburgh has always responded."
In 2018, organic snack maker Kate's Real Food was at a crossroads. With 10 employees making all products by hand, the startup could not meet increasing demand for its products from grocery chains, specialty stores and online retailers. To grow, the company would have to expand its operations or outsource production to a co-packer.