Housing uncertainty, closer to home

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 8/4/21

HONESDALE, PA — It’s a problem that’s been brewing across the nation for close to a year. Current homeowners, renters or just about anyone wanting a place to call their own are …

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Housing uncertainty, closer to home

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — It’s a problem that’s been brewing across the nation for close to a year. Current homeowners, renters or just about anyone wanting a place to call their own are faced with uncertainty.

“With Honesdale, while we’re tucked away in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we experience a lot of the same issues that are happening around the country, and housing is a major issue in almost every part of the country,” said borough councilor James Jennings.

Housing has become a multifaceted issue within the Honesdale Borough and throughout Wayne County. 211 Reports claims that close to 80 percent of the major issues facing the borough are related to housing in some way.

Issues with maintenance and modernization have proved to be concerns. According to Jennings, 64 percent of the housing stock in the Honesdale Borough was built prior to 1939.

The two biggest housing-related issues facing Honesdale and Wayne County have been few available dwellings and the astronomical prices attached to them.

“The most common issue is the shortage of available rental units and even homes on the market. Since the pandemic hit, homes are selling very quickly, within a day or so. Realtors are reporting to me that they have an extremely low inventory of housing to show potential buyers,” said Lori O’Malley, Wayne County Human Services Deputy Administrator.

In addition to her role within human services, she also oversees the county housing department.

According to O’Malley, only 19 percent of Wayne County’s housing stock is used for rental purposes. The state average is 31, and the national average is 36.

One might surmise that the lack of available rental units can be attributed to people snatching them up the minute a “for sale” sign gets hammered into the ground, but that isn’t the whole truth. Recent county census data shows that 42 percent of the county’s available housing units are currently vacant. Most of the time, this means that they are either being used as seasonal homes or short-term rentals.

The end of the eviction moratorium on July 31 has also concerned O’Malley. She expects to see a rise in the number of people in desperate need of housing. Homelessness is also an issue, due to the county lacking an official homeless shelter.

Although the uncertainty related to housing seems to be widespread and inescapable, the county is offering a variety of programs to help combat this issue.

Two of the biggest programs offered by the county are the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMAP). Under ERAP, renters  are eligible for up to 12 months of rental or utility assistance. Since its inception in March, there has been 173 applications for the program.

Under EMAP, mortgage holders are eligible for two consecutive months of coverage for a maximum of $2,000.

In the past year, the department was able to help 130 households in Wayne County financially. They also assisted 220 other households with general housing case-management services.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a housing-related crisis, call the housing department of the Wayne County Office of Human Services at 570/253-6758. Applications for both programs are available at www.waynecountypa.gov.

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