Randolph?County Housing Authority President Karen Jacobson updated the Elkins Rotary Club Oct. 5 about her agency's programs.
"For those who don't know us, we are a non-traditional housing authority started 30 years ago by citizens intent on creating a home repair program for local homeowners who couldn't afford to do it on their own," Jacobson said.
"Since then, our services have grown to include the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, which provides rental assistance to primarily elderly, disabled and low-income working families in Randolph and five surrounding counties, and the development of homeownership and new rental housing in Randolph, Barbour and Tucker counties," she said. "We also operate the YouthBuild program that helps 17- to 24-year-olds get their GED certificate and work experience in the construction trade by helping to build affordable homes."
According to Jacobson, the housing choice voucher program requires the tenant to pay up to 30 percent of the cost of rent and utilities, and the voucher pays the difference up to an amount established by Housing and Urban Development.
RCHA's partner organization, the HomeOwnership Center, helps income-eligible families become mortgage ready by helping to repair credit and offering training on the responsibilities of homeownership. The HOC also helps homebuyers access affordable loans.
The RCHA construction crew builds new homes every year in Randolph and surrounding counties. The homes are in "move-in" condition, including appliances, with a one-year lease/purchase option. The authority also builds homes on privately owned land, if the owner is eligible.
"The authority feels that the future success of our region depends on the skills and character of our youth," Jacobson said. "Through the YouthBuild Program, young people earn money while learning to build homes, start a business and get their GED. The Highland Cafe coffee shop offers youth employment opportunities and experience in entrepreneurship and small business management.
"The authority is an active partner in community projects that make our area more appealing and encourages economic development," she said. "We help leverage public resources for the construction and financing of revitalization projects."
After speaking about the projects of the RCHA, Jacobson reviewed the history of the Delmonte Hotel with the help of her audience.
By directing questions to Rotarians, she not only refreshed the memories of those familiar with the old hotel, but several additional historic facts were brought to light.
According to Jacobson, renovation to the old 9,500-square-foot hotel in recent years include a new roof and steel structural supports in the front two-thirds of the building and a new porch on the first and second floors.
She said that renovation work that began this fall includes asbestos removal, installation of steel structural support in the back third of the building, brick re-pointing, window and door restoration and sidewalk repair.
"What everyone is most interested in is what will go inside when the building is ready for occupancy," Jacobson said. "We have had meetings with local stakeholders, such as the mayor, the development authority, the chamber (of commerce) and local historians to help us craft a request for credentials from a commercial real estate developer. We've also had a lot of interest from local businesses.
"Ideally we'd like to partner with a developer who can bring the commercial expertise and additional capital to the table," she said.
"Our preference is for a locally owned retail or restaurant on the first floor, with either offices, a boutique, hotel or condos on the upper floors. We would prefer not to be the landlord to multiple businesses or individuals but to a developer who managers it on a day-to-day basis, at least for the 20-year term of our grant funds," she said.
According to Jacobson, grant funds from the State Historical Preservation Office came with certain covenants including that until 2017 the building be open to the public at least 12 days per year.
"Any public use on the first floor such as a retail business, restaurant or office would meet these criteria," she said. "The SHPO would also like to see the second and third floor hallways and room structure in the back third of the building preserved. Grant funds also require that the RCHA maintain the building for 20 years."
About $750,000 is still needed to complete the building for occupancy, Jacobson said, based on a first floor restaurant and offices.
According to a 2006 feasibility study, it would take $1,250,000 to rehabilitate the exterior, HVAC, plumbing, mechanical, restroom areas, elevator and complete build-out of restaurant and kitchens with some basic kitchen equipment plus the build-out of the second and third floors into office space.
The RCHA is located on U.S. 219 north behind the HomeOwnership Center, which is also owned by the authority.
For more information, call 304-636-6495 or visit www.rchawv.org.