HAPEC fighting the housing crunch in Essex County

ELIZABETHTOWNA recently announced $600,000 grant has ensured that a housing program in Essex County will continue. U.S. Congressman John M. McHugh announced that the 23rd Congressional District has been awarded $9,599,600 in grants as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, including $600,000 for the Essex County Homebuyer Program.

The program is overseen by the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County (HAPEC), a rural preservation organization and neighborhood membership organization. The nonprofit group is viewed as the Essex County housing agency, as a HUD certified home counseling organization.

Homebuyer Coordinator Penny Daniels said the grants were used to provide homebuyer assistance in the form of principle reduction, closing costs and or repairs for safety/code violations for income eligible clients.

HAPEC Executive Director Alan Hipps said the funds would help with about twenty-five home purchases. The program was involved in about twelve percent of home sales in Essex County in 2006, and is currently running at a higher rate this year. Hipps said that twenty percent of homes purchased for less than $140,000 in 2007 would be involved in the program.

Hipps explained that the program helped create a more stable, family-based population. The benefits to the community are immensestable households are more likely to volunteer in organizations like local fire departments.

"There's clearly a housing crisis. The price of housing does create a crisis for local working families," said Hipps.

I don't know of a bigger issue facing our communities right now. We're losing our community to second-home buyers, and we need to counteract that to the extent we can, Hipps continued.

Hipps said the increase in second-home sales had led to a decrease in housing affordabilitya trend he believed would continue. He added that a shortage of rental opportunities compounded the difficulties for working families.

It also helps reviving some of our older housing stock. A lot of recipients of the grant also receive repair assistance for the home," said Daniels. She explained that many residences are between fifty and a hundred years old, and the program's renovations helped increase the life of a home.

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