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Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham honored by Statewide Organization
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania recognizes Cunningham as a "housing champion"

(Allentown, PA): Recognized as a “housing champion” for his commitment to creating and preserving more affordable housing, Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham was recognized Wednesday (11/19) by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. The award was presented at the Homes within Reach Conference in Harrisburg on Wednesday. More than 600 people from throughout Pennsylvania attended the conference on the creation of affordable housing.

“For many people, owning a home is as lifelong dream and we remain committed to finding ways to help them achieve that dream in a responsible way,” said Cunningham. “Our focus in Lehigh County has been to partner with the public and private sectors to create more affordable housing for the working families of our area.”

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who serves as president of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, said Cunningham is a strong advocate for affordable housing.

“Don has brought the county to the table as a partner to improve the city’s housing stock,” said Pawlowski. “Most of the countywide initiatives are having an especially positive impact in the city of Allentown.”

The award from the Housing Alliance was based on the following, according to the conference’s program book.

“Last year, under Don’s leadership, Lehigh County leveraged over a million dollars of county funds to create new affordable housing, fund a home ownership assistance program and create pride in home ownership in struggling neighborhoods,” the award document reads. “Grants were awarded from Lehigh County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is funded by recording fees on mortgages and other recorded documents.”

In 2006, Cunningham joined with his counterpart in neighboring Northampton County to form a housing task force to make recommendations on how to create more affordable housing in the Lehigh Valley.

One of the outcomes of the task force was the creation of the Lehigh County Affordable Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee. Last year, under Cunningham’s leadership, Lehigh County distributed $1.4 million in grants, creating 423 new housing units and helping at least 25 families purchase homes for the first time through a home ownership assistance program.

This year, the committee received eleven applications for funding and hopes to award $425,000 for the development of more low-income units.  

Based on recommendations from the Lehigh County Affordable Housing Committee, grants were awarded to several projects, including: the Lehigh Valley Hope Ownership Outreach, or HOOP program, which provides first-time home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance as well as individual counseling related to the purchase of their first home; a mixed residential housing community in East Allentown; and construction of 26 affordable owner-occupied town homes units in the heart of Allentown. 

Cunningham is in his 13th year as an elected and appointed official. He has served as mayor and city councilmember in Bethlehem, a state cabinet secretary and the president of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. He is best known as the former mayor of Bethlehem where he led the economic renaissance of a city that lost nearly 25 percent of its tax base with the closing of Bethlehem Steel Corp. to the city of today with two thriving downtown retail districts and $2 billion in new investment.

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