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By: Joanna Richards, Watertown Daily Times Staff Writer | August 16, 2009

Frontier Housing Corp., Dexter, is taking steps to expand its services from the town of Brownville into Hounsfield and Lyme, the organization's executive director, Jill E. Evans, said Friday.

Frontier's mission is to facilitate community and economic development, usually by focusing on housing preservation for low-income homeowners and renters. The agency owns and manages several apartment complexes in Dexter and has been at work on a $412,000 downtown revitalization project in the village of Brownville.

Municipalities and property owners often must contribute in-kind services or matching funds for the grants Frontier secures, Ms. Evans said, so strong partnerships with two more towns can help the agency "provide a broader variety of services than what we currently offer."

Ms. Evans said she's met with the supervisors of both towns and has received their support. She gave a presentation Tuesday to the Hounsfield Town Council.

"I think Frontier Housing can address another important need in the community," Hounsfield Supervisor Martin A. DelSignore said Friday. The tough economic times make the availability of services even more important to "folks being able to maintain and stay in their homes at affordable costs," he said.

Frontier hopes to have the necessary state paperwork and bylaw changes in place so that services can be offered in the towns starting in January, Ms. Evans said.

The decision to expand was a natural one, since the organization receives calls every week from residents of both Lyme and Hounsfield looking for assistance with issues like water and septic system problems and the repair of roofs, insulation, windows and furnaces, she said.

Frontier's funding comes from grant programs of state agencies, such as the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, and the agency frequently works with other groups, such as the Jefferson County Department of Social Services, North Country Affordable Housing and Neighbors of Watertown, to finance projects or connect clients with services. That means the organization's expansion likely will bring state dollars into those communities and help connect residents with services beyond those Frontier provides..

"A lot of municipalities are unaware that there's funds available through the Community Block Development Grants," Ms. Evans said. Those grants are awarded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Renewal.

"The project in Brownville is our first Main Street project," she added, referring to the state program to increase the economic vitality of traditional downtown districts. "I would like to see another Main Street project in the village of Chaumont."

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