Wayne adopts affordable housing ordinance

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 8/26/20

HONESDALE, PA — Last week, the Wayne County Commissioners voted “aye” on an ordinance which will raise the fees for recording deeds and mortgages for the first time since 1982. The …

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Wayne adopts affordable housing ordinance

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HONESDALE, PA — Last week, the Wayne County Commissioners voted “aye” on an ordinance which will raise the fees for recording deeds and mortgages for the first time since 1982. The additional revenue will go toward the county’s effort to increase resident’s access to affordable housing.

All 67 counties in the commonwealth have had the option to adopt this “Affordable Housing Fees Ordinance” since 1992 when it was first authorized by PA’s General Assembly. To date, 45 counties have adopted the ordinance, including Wayne’s six neighboring counties. Wayne County has been among the minority to forgo this option—until now. Commissioner Joe Adams said that the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic informed the commissioners’ change of heart this year.

“The federal government is going to be in a world of hurt financially, and the state is in a world of hurt. And, quite honestly, we’re very concerned about both, because they do provide pretty large funding streams to us,”  he said. “[We are] looking at every opportunity we can to raise revenue, or cut expenses, or some combination of both.”

In addition to helping the county raise additional revenue, Adams said that this specific ordinance will help address housing insecurity, an issue of “greater concern than it has ever been.”

“We certainly have some concerns about homelessness, we have concerns about people who might currently be homeless because they were technically living with a relative or a friend on a couch and may not be able to do that anymore because of COVID[-19] reasons,” Adams said.

Beginning Thursday, October 1, the county’s portion of the recording fee will double from $13 to $26, increasing the “base recording fee for deeds and mortgages from $58.75 to $71.75,” according to recorder of deeds Debbie Bates. Eighty-five percent of this additional revenue will be used to fund affordable housing efforts, the other 15 percent will go toward administrative costs.

Human Services Deputy Administrator Lori O’Malley named a number of avenues the county can take toward more accessible and better quality housing: securing land, providing more housing case management services which can help prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless, helping families maintain their affordable housing, applying for grants and fixing blighted properties.

“We’ve always had a philosophy of trying not to nickel-and-dime [residents] and be as frugal as we possibly can, but knowing what has happened in the recent past and certainly what is going to happen in the future, we view this as a positive opportunity to help the overall operation fiscally... without having to go directly to the taxpayer,” Adams said. Commissioner Jocelyn Cramer noted that she hates the term “no-brainer, but honestly, in this case, it truly is.”

The River Reporter will continue its coverage of the status of housing in Wayne County in next week’s edition.

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