The newly renovated Declaration House, formerly known as the Denver House, resides in the center of town on Main Street in Denver, Pennsylvania, where it’s home to 10 affordable housing units, social service offices, retail space and a medical center.
The new Declaration House, however, came a long way from what it used to be.
Built in 1863, the iconic Denver House served as a welcoming venue for food and a clean place to stay for more than 150 years. In recent years, the property had become blighted to the point of condemnation. With the highest crime rate in the borough, it became an economic drag and hindered further downtown development.
That’s when the community united on a project that would eventually revitalize the downtown area. After the land was secured by REAL Life Community Services (REAL) and the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP), the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) provided $600,000 in funding to jumpstart the project. Even with this initial investment and all the right partners at the table, the project was short $750,000 in funding to complete the $2.2 million renovation.
To close the funding gap, REAL partnered with Ephrata National Bank to apply for an Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant from FHLBank Pittsburgh. The project was awarded the grant in 2018 and the Declaration House opened their doors to tenants on Sept. 1, 2019.
“Ephrata National Bank’s focus on reinvesting in the local community is also modeled by FHLBank through its Affordable Housing Program and other programs designed to bridge the gap in allowing individuals to obtain affordable housing or enter their very first home,” said Scott E. Lied, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Ephrata National Bank.
FHLBank’s AHP provides grants and subsidized advances for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing for households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). Housing developers partner with FHLBank members to apply for AHP funding, which is offered through a competitive funding round each year. Grants are awarded to the highest scoring projects until the round’s funds are exhausted.
Lied continues, “The opportunity to personally serve as Chairman of the Capital Funds Committee for the Declaration House was a natural fit, which allowed Ephrata National Bank to use its resources and membership with FHLBank to benefit the local community. The pursuit of the AHP grant occurred during the height of fundraising, when things appeared the most difficult. The possibility of garnering the grant provided a second wind to this challenging effort. It truly was the AHP grant that ensured the completion of the project and was the highlight of the fundraising efforts. We thank FHLBank for their commitment to affordable housing and the lives that have been positively changed as result of their efforts."
Justin Eby, Deputy Director at LCRA, agrees that this grant was instrumental to the project. "The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority was proud to partner with FHLBank Pittsburgh and many others to bring this exciting project to reality,” said Eby. “The Affordable Housing Program was instrumental in not only creating needed housing units, but also helped kickstart other development projects in Denver's downtown."
Today, the Denver House has a new name, a new look, and a tenant with a new start on life. When Patricia Dean saw her apartment for the very first time, she was full of emotions. "It's been a struggle on the family," Dean said. "It's been struggle on our relationships, especially on the kids so this was just a fresh start."