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Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Shale Region Housing Assistance Program Gets Statewide Rollout

Eleanor Klibanoff


It's the first thing in the morning, which means Ramona DiMassimo has already claimed her spot at one of the desks in the computer room of her apartment building. She says having Internet access down the hall from her apartment has been "habit forming."

"I don't get anything done," she said, laughing. "I headed in half an hour ago for breakfast and, well, I haven't made it yet!" 

DiMassimo, and her dog Elvis, used to live in a mobile home. She couldn't afford necessary repairs and sometimes the heating bills. She resisted moving into low-income housing, expecting the worst. But Memorial Homes, a new low-income apartment building in Williamsport, surprised her.

The apartments are large, clean and well-maintained. There's a gym, a full-time staff and a community room. "All us old hens get in there and cackle," DiMassimo said.

Building Memorial Homes and sprucing up the surrounding neighborhood has been on the county's to-do list for years, says Kim Wheeler, deputy director of planning at the Lycoming County Planning Department.

"We've been talking about this since our strategic plan in 2006," said Wheeler. "We've had great visions, but we don't always have the resources." 

The county was able to invest $2.6 million into the project thanks to an unlikely source: fracking. In 2012, the state levied an "impact fee" — a sum companies pay to offset the public cost of new development — on each natural gas well. The proceeds went into the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, known as the PHARE fund. 

Read more of this report on the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads