Fort Cumberland Homes to receive $20M renovation

Funding has been secured to begin a $20 million renovation of Fort Cumberland Homes.

CUMBERLAND — Funding has been secured to begin a $20 million renovation of Fort Cumberland Homes, according to Steve Kesner, CEO of the Cumberland Housing Group.

The 80-unit public housing complex is located at 129 W. Oldtown Road, at the corner of Industrial Boulevard and Lamont Street.  Owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Cumberland, the facility opened in 1960.

Kesner said the long-overdue project is expected to get underway this year.

“We are very excited about it. It’s been three-and-a-half years of planning,” he said. “We’re providing major improvements to the development. When you see housing maintained in this fashion it helps lift the people up and the community as a whole.”

The housing development will be rebranded as River Bend Court, according to Kesner.

“It will consist of 77 residential units, including four physically accessible units that meet ADA standards. The modernization will provide new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, lighting, heating, air conditioning, new utility services, laundry and more,” Kesner said. “The exterior facade of the buildings will be completely renovated, including windows, doors, siding, roofs, porches, etc. Three current residential units will be converted into a community center, computer lab and site office. In addition to laundry connections in each unit, an onsite laundry will be provided for residents.”

Fort Cumberland Homes is administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Many times public housing is viewed with a negative connotation but that is not the case,” said Kesner. “Often people can’t afford market rent and it helps them get on their feet. We have seen many success stories to show for it over the years.”

All tenants currently living at the development will move into the newly renovated townhomes as construction is completed. River Bend Court will provide housing for those whose gross family incomes are below 60% of the Cumberland/Allegany County Area Median Income of $61,900 and adjusted per family size.

“In other words, a single person with a gross income of $30,600 or a family of four earning $43,680 per year are both considered low income qualified families,” said Kesner. “Monthly rent is calculated on 30% of the adjusted gross income.”

Kesner said the project would not be possible without a new federal funding option known as Rental Assistance Demonstration, which allowed the rehabilitation project to move forward. In 2015, Fort Cumberland Homes was identified as a candidate and the financial planning process got underway. 

“The use of traditional forms of funding for performing modernization is not permitted and funding is limited to federal appropriations,” said Kesner. “After decades of underfunding housing developments across the nation, HUD has designed a rehabilitation option which transfers the ownership of the development to a nonprofit entity, permitting the use of conventional funding while continuing to provide the use of the HUD rent subsidy.”

Fort Cumberland Homes will be transferred to the River Bend Court, LP with agencies within the Cumberland Housing Group as general and managing partner and Stratford Capital Investments as its limited partner.

The total project cost of $19.34 million is being financed by or through the Maryland Community Development Administration, Stratford Capital Investments, 1st United Bank, and the Cumberland Housing Group. The development team includes the Cumberland Housing Group as the developer and General Partner; Harbel Inc. (a division of the Belt Group) as the general contractor; EADS Architects; East Hills Engineering; and the Chesapeake Community Advisors as development consultants. 

The development is scheduled to be completed in December 2021.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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