Frequently Asked Questions

Company Overview

Community Strategies Group (CSG) is a 501c3 charitable organization that provides community development services. CSG seeks to remove obstacles identified by the communities we serve, in pursuit of a higher quality of life. We collaborate with public and private stakeholders at local, state, and federal levels, to develop strategies for addressing complicated local challenges. CSG aims to empower individuals and organizations to achieve strong, healthy communities where all basic needs are met for every citizen. All people should have access to adequate housing, nutrition, recreation, the arts, and
meaningful work.

We build. CSG’s specialty is affordable housing, from single family homes to 64-unit apartment buildings, but we consider a broad scope of projects that can address an unmet need. Such projects may also include community amenities such as parks or community centers, or mixed-use facilities that contribute to downtown revitalization.

We serve. CSG provides property management and social service coordination for residents in over 200 apartment units. CSG also administers home and car loan assistance programs available to Columbia County residents with household incomes at or below 80% of the median income. Additionally, CSG employees volunteer on over 20 community boards, coalitions, and advisory committees.

We consult. CSG often provides direct services, or the coordination of services, for a variety of community enhancement activities such as needs assessments, opportunity analysis, strategic plans, mapping, and blight remediation remedies.

We partner with communities who invite us, primarily in Columbia County to date, with capabilities to serve within a 90 minute radius of our home office in Bloomsburg, PA. Our Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) status extends to seven (7) counties that include: Columbia, Montour, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Sullivan, and Lycoming.

Yes. Community Strategies Group is a non-profit entity with a 501c3 charitable tax designation.

CSG is a non-profit entity, but many of our projects make significant annual contributions to local tax rolls.

For example, CSG’s Bloomsburg properties contributed $35,250 to the Town of Bloomsburg’s tax roll in 2021. Mulberry Mill Apartments is projected to contribute an additional $12,800 annually. Mill on Market is projected to contribute an additional $11,240 annually. Bill’s House will begin contributing to Bloomsburg’s tax roll in 2022. These numbers do not include additional contributions to County and School District tax rolls.

CSG’s 6th Street projects anticipate a combined annual contribution of $56,000 to the Town of Bloomsburg on what was previously vacant land with a tax liability of $1,700.

CSG’s projects average over $8,000 in tax revenue per acre for the Town of Bloomsburg. That is a higher per-acre rate than Bloomsburg’s 5 largest employers – combined.

The majority of CSG’s affordable housing projects are funded through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). This program requires the creation of a single-entity limited partnership (LP). The partnership includes CSG (a nonprofit) as the managing partner with 1% equity, and a bank (or other for-profit entity) as the 99%
equity partner.

A successful application process, which can take 6 months to 2 years, means PHFA awards tax credits the project. The equity partner then purchases the tax credits. Funds from the tax credit sale provide the bulk of project financing.

The LP is a for-profit entity, therefore LIHTC projects pay property taxes. However, while PHFA expects the projects to maintain self-sustainable operations, they impose a revenue limit. Any revenue over that limit must be repaid to PHFA. The remaining revenue covers costs of that building’s maintenance, property management, and 50% of social service costs. It also establishes a reserve for future repairs and provides CSG with a small recurring payment for professional services such as accounting.

Who benefits?

The bank partner benefits through the financial incentives associated with tax credits, and the coinciding progress towards their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements.

CSG benefits from a one-time payment, called a developers payment. CSG uses this payment to keep our lights on, cover daily operations, provide community services and activities, and research for future projects.

The municipality, school district, and county benefit from an increase in tax revenue, an increase in high- quality affordable housing, improved property values, a brand new community service facility, and the services CSG funds with its developer payment.

Mulberry Mill is a 61,178 sf wood-framed facility (4 stories) that will include a mix of 44 senior apartments, 5 office suites and the Kathy Lowe Memorial Pavilion, a social services HUB, and a park. The five components of the project include:

1. Mulberry Mill Apartments: Similar to Bloom Mill Apartments, MM will provide 44 affordable apartments for seniors 62+ with incomes below 60% of the median income.

2. Office Suites (5): The new home for Community Strategies Group, the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia Montour United Way and Central Susquehanna Opportunities (CSO), and the Columbia County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities. These suites share a common corridor and facilities, with direct access to The HUB at the Mills.

3. The HUB at the Mills: 12,000 sf of multi-purpose community spaces. This building will be home to a centralized AmeriCorps*VISTA and internship program that will streamline the process for local businesses and nonprofits to connect with students and individuals interested in gaining workforce experience. “Rotating” offices will provide desks, storage, and technology resources for agencies who serve Bloomsburg residents, but do not currently have a Bloomsburg home. Individual work stations provide wifi and printing for telecommuters, volunteers, and interns. A large volunteer room is for local non-profits, youth groups, and common-interest groups to use for school projects, art activities, workshops, etc. A board room, large conference room, demonstration kitchen, and multi-purpose room provide flexibility to accommodate several groups at once, or host job training seminars, industry conferences, community lunches, job fairs, fundraisers, and central staging for community events. The facility functions in conjunction with the office suites to allow individuals and families with transportation challenges to access all of Columbia County’s social services in one central location.

4. Kathy Lowe Memorial Pavilion: Timber framed pavilion equipped for unique outdoor venue or open-air conferencing, with Audio/Visual and Wi-Fi access. Fireplace, built with repurposed cobblestones from Berwick train station, and outdoor heating units with barn door style walls accommodates multi-season usage.

5. First Columbia Bank Park: Set on grassy knoll between Mulberry Mill and Silk Mill Apartments, FCBP’s design will encourage intergenerational interactions in a vibrant outdoor setting. Park amenities, open to public use, will include a food truck pad and picnic area, outdoor exercise equipment specifically designed for seniors, easy-to-play outdoor music equipment, and an off-leash dog run.

This project will pay taxes at a rate consistent with our other Bloomsburg project.

CSG’s housing projects are designed to be self-sustaining. They do not generate enough monthly revenue to support CSG operations. The grants that fund our projects sometimes allow for either an administrative or developer fee. These fees are used to cover our costs of administering the grant and maintaining compliance. When the fee is large enough, it is used to support daily operations (such as rent
and light bills) and to subsidize all other community activities. That includes research and due-diligence needed to determine future project feasibility.

Examples of such activities that CSG has funded in the past include:
• Administering First Time Home Buyer Assistance Program for 119 households and counting
• Administering Revolving Auto Loan Program for residents who need reliable transportation for improved wages
• Commissioned a county-wide Covid-related community needs assessment and shared with funding bodies
• Provided land & probono staffing resources to mentor the 2019 NE United States Eagle Scout Project of the Year
• 2017 Downtown Berwick Enhancement Study
• Age-In-Place: Converting blight into energy-efficient, zero-step homes for mixed-income seniors – 4 to date
• In-kind staff & organizational resources to support 20+ community boards, advisory committees, & task forces
• Administration of various blight remediation strategies: 42 blighted properties addressed to date.
• Neighbor Building: Coordinating social activities in communities served by our housing projects
• Staffing services to coordinate the creation of Berwick Neighborhood Watch
• Secured the funding to design and build Benton PA’s first community center, N4Cs
• Donated land and assisted in the design & construction of Benton’s competitive horseshoe venue
• 50% of costs associated with service coordination at all of our facilities
• Property management at Bill’s House Bloomsburg
• Resource support for creation of Parole Office’s Housing And Re-integration Training program (HART)
• All of the non-reimbursable expenses associated with making projects like Bloom Mill Apartments possible

Prospective Tenants

Rents for each facility can vary. Please refer to each rental facility on our website for more detail.
https://csgpa.org/properties/

Vacancy rates are unpredictable, so we keep an active waiting list for interested applicants. We recommend
applying for each property you are interested in as soon as possible so we can add you to our waiting list.

The waiting list is created as a first received, first reviewed basis, from the date that the signed and completed
application is received by management. Once a unit becomes available, we go down the list one at a time. Once
your name comes up, your eligibility will be determined after a screening with the project manager and all
verifications are completed. Having an application on the waiting list does not guarantee a unit. The current
waiting list for any property can be anywhere from 1-3 years.

The funding used to build our housing facilities determines who is eligible to live in each apartment. As such, we
must provide a report on each tenant to prove they are eligible. Each funding agency determines what
documentation we are required to collect and prepare for that report. Sometimes our projects are funded by
multiple sources, and we must provide documentation to each agency in the formatting they require. That can
sometimes mean giving the same information multiple times.

Income is the gross (total before removing taxes) amount from all sources. Examples include, but are not limited
to, employment wages, Social Security, Required Minimum Distribution from investments, income from
investments, income from assets, alimony, child support, unemployment, and disability. All income must be
verified by 3rd party.


Income from assets are counted as income (i.e. dividends). Assets over $5,000.00 that do not have income are
totaled and multiplied by 0.06%. The higher amount of the two is then counted as income.

Our senior apartments allow one (1) small dog per unit. No cats. All other facilities require certified emotional
support designation. Visit each facility’s page on our website for more information.
https://csgpa.org/properties/

Security deposit is equivalent to one full month of rent, which can vary by facility. Refer to the property page on
our website for more information. https://csgpa.org/properties/

Refer to each facility’s page on our website for site specific utility information. https://csgpa.org/properties/

Refrigerator, microwave, oven/range, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer

Storage availability varies by facility. Visit each facility’s page on our website for more information.
https://csgpa.org/properties/