Why affordable rental housing?
360 people are homeless in Lancaster County on any given day. Members of ECSMC created Chestnut Housing Corporation (CHC) with a mission to provide affordable rental housing in the church neighborhood for people facing homelessness. When people have a permanent, affordable place to live, they become better and healthier workers, parents, and citizens.
Low-income families should pay no more than 30% of their household income for rent and utilities, but rising rents and stagnant wages often make that impossible. In Lancaster County, a single parent would need to earn more than $15, or twice minimum wage, to meet that goal for a one-bedroom apartment. Low-income working families often have very limited funds for emergencies, and are just one crisis away from catastrophe. Job loss, illness, divorce and other challenges cause a domino effect that may end in homelessness.
In 2010, CHC acquired a single-family house in the 600 block of East Chestnut Street in Lancaster. After renovations, primarily using church volunteers, we began renting the house for significantly less than market rate to low-income families who have experienced homelessness. CHC fully paid off this first house through generous individual donations and excess church operating funds. In 2014, we purchased a two-unit town home in the 500 block of East Chestnut Street with a down-payment provided by church members. Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) offered a long-term, low-interest loan for the remainder. Most recently, we purchased and renovated another apartment building in the 500 block of East Chestnut Street that includes a former bar. This project was financed by LHOP and Eastern Mennonite Missions. Chestnut Housing now provides ten units of affordable housing.
We have learned that our renters often need support and guidance to be responsible tenants, so we enlisted the support of community partners to help our tenants develop the skills and habits they need to be dependable renters and good stewards of their housing. Our community partners include Tabor Community Services, Milagro House, and Good Samaritan Services.
We’re grateful to be able to offer 10 adults and warm, safe and attractive places to call home. Listen to what one of our tenants says about the importance of home.
“Home is stability and my kids having a safe place to come. That’s what home means to me – my kids being safe.” – Desiree
Chestnut Housing Corporation
432-434 East Chestnut Street
Lancaster, PA 17602