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Housing projects across Philadelphia have transformed from plan to reality.

Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) announced on March 22 that $960,000 in Affordable Housing Grants would be awarded to sponsors of building projects that will house veterans, homeless families and the mentally ill. Fattah represents the second district of Pennsylvania, which includes both Center City and University City.

The grants are made possible by the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, which has contributed 10 percent of its earnings to affordable housing projects since the late 1980s. This year, four projects within the Philadelphia area will receive over $200,000 each.

According to Fattah’s Press Secretary Ron Goldwyn, these projects “reflect Congressman Fattah’s housing agenda.”

“[Fattah] has been quite active in Philadephia’s older neighborhoods since his days in the State Legislature in the 1980s,” Goldwyn wrote in an email.

While Fattah helped direct funding toward projects specifically for homeless and disabled veterans, FHLBank chose projects that are most suitable for funding. According to Community Investment Manager at FHLBank David Buches, the selection process when reviewing projects to fund is “very competitive.”

Of the 60 applications that FHLBank received, only 23 of them were accepted. Certain factors that FHLBank consider include the degree of stability the project will lend to the community, the readiness of the project to proceed, and the level of empowerment it will lend to inhabitants.

According to Buches, the bank provides “cheap money” to sponsors so they can return it to the community.

The People’s Emergency Center, which is based in West Philadelphia, is one such sponsor that FHLBank has funded in the past. “They are very good at what they do,” Buches said.

Due to the promising nature of PEC’s housing plans, the organization received $210,000 for Bigham Place, their current construction project that is planned to be located at 4226-32 Powelton Ave. The grant “really is allowing [the project] to happen,” said Kira Strong, Vice President of Community and Economic Development at PEC.

“We raised a majority of the funds, but we just needed a little more to close the last remaining gap,” Strong said.

By July 8, FHLBank will begin accepting applications for more projects and the 2013 grant awards will be announced on Dec. 19, 2013. According to Buches, because the economy is recovering, the pool of available money in the Affordable Housing Program jumped from about $5 million in 2012 to almost $13.5 million in 2013.

“If you have a project on the shelf, this is the year to apply,” said Buches.

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