OWEGO — A small neighborhood in each of three Tioga County villages will soon be getting the special treatment.
Details of the Tioga County Housing and Community Investment Initiative were released Monday, offering detail and insight into a strategic effort to spark and continue revitalization throughout the county.
The initiative was developed by the Payne-Corveleyn Consulting Team based on findings from a 2017 countywide study on housing needs, and ultimately will facilitate various funding opportunities to help continue community rejuvenation.
Generally speaking, small neighborhoods — comprising only a few square blocks — will be targeted for intense renovation with the aim of completely transforming the look and feel.
In particular, the HCII is a community-level blueprint representing a strategic model to strengthen community cores with a quality mix of residential neighborhoods in order to attract, retain and foster a high quality of life for a solid workforce with long-term stability in mind.
Programs will be in place for financial institutions, realtors, major employers, local developers and homeowners in order to pair individual project need with the best-suited funding source.
Being that the housing study highlighted a declining population with deteriorating housing stock, there is some long-term concern for not only the economic viability of the county, but maintaining a sustainable tax base.
With local elected officials and key community entities like Tioga Opportunities, key neighborhoods were selected for targeted, concentrated investment through public-private partnerships and leveraging any potential funding avenues available.
The “pocket” neighborhoods were identified in the villages of Waverly, Owego and Newark Valley.
Details regarding the identification and selection of these investment zones spread across dozens of pages of the study results.
However, it was noted that the three municipalities have higher instances of renter-occupied housing versus owner-occupied housing.
“The proportion of renter-occupied housing units is 43 percent in the Village of Owego and 45 percent in the Village of Waverly, where much of the rental property is in the form of sub-divided single-family houses and owned by absentee landlords,” the study results said.
This serves as a counterincentive to home ownership throughout the area, and leads to the more individuals of varying income level living outside the county.
Additionally, this situation leads to continued community blight.
In Waverly, the target zone runs along Spring Street to Waverly and Lincoln streets, down to Chemung Street. Within that area, Orchard Street and Clinton Avenue are included.
“The work group selected this zone to complement ongoing revitalization activity in the village and to rehabilitate a key visible neighborhood, bounded at the south by a busy thoroughfare (Chemung Street) and surrounding the Lincoln Street neighborhood school zone,” HCII documents state.
HCII documents note the municipality’s receipt of $500,000 in state Community Development Block Grant funding to assist 17 homeowners with repairs and upgrades and an additional $250,000 from an earlier CDBG grant, and the land bank’s purchase of nine tax-delinquent properties — four of which are in the HCII zone.
A block-by-block assessment of each property within the zone will continue as methods for improvement will be discussed.
In Owego, the target zone encompasses South Depot, Liberty and Temple Streets, as well as a section of North Avenue.
The adjoining Tioga Opportunities, Inc., DRI revitalization project on Temple Street will fund demolition of deteriorating 19th Century structures through the land bank, preparing the area for future non-residential redevelopment.
The selected neighborhood zone leverages and supports both the DRI projects at Temple Street and Marvin Park, documents show.
“The Village of Owego team chose to select both a neighborhood zone and a community corridor segment for investment model application,” study results said. “The entire zone ... represents an opportunity to restore vibrancy and life to a large section of the village, linking the school zone and the downtown core with a renewed and thriving community of homes, businesses and recreational opportunities.”
In Newark Valley, the zone is bounded at the north by Lawrence Avenue, to the west by Elm Street, to the south by Maple Avenue and at the east by Whig Street.
The area adjoins a school zone that includes both elementary and middle schools, and has blighted and deteriorating properties co-mingled with well-maintained homes.
The overall impression delivered in this important main village corridor is compromised by visible blight and disrepair, which, left unaddressed, will discourage homebuyers away from the corridor and neighborhoods, devalue the well-maintained housing and stymie new redevelopment projects, documents explained.
Regarding the financial aspect of the HCII, there are over a dozen potential state programs that could potentially apply to properties within the target zones.
Eventually, a consolidated, single-point source of information on these fund opportunities will be available to the public.
It should be noted that the availability of these funds and programs are not restricted to those within the HCII zones, but a concerted effort will be made to leverage these funds within those zones for optimal impact as stated above.
Among the financial incentives for renovation are tax credits for historic housing, competitive reduced interest rate financing opportunities; insured home improvement loans; home improvement grants; and first-time homebuyer grants.
More information and details will appear in the Morning Times as the initiative progresses.