22 Great Things From 2022!
By Phyllis Chamberlain, Executive Director
As we prepare to take on 2023, here’s a look at 22 accomplishments from 2022.
Our goal is to make a home affordable, safe, and decent for all Pennsylvanians. Because a home is where everything starts.
To achieve this goal, we need money and resources, practices and program models, and voices and leadership among those that have lived the problem and those delivering the assistance on the front lines.
Here’s where we made progress in those three areas, specifically 22 achievements in 2022.
#1-7 – MONEY & RESOURCES
The Housing Alliance advocates to create and expand funding resources and improve public policy.
#1. PHARE Funding Increase Starting in July 2023, up to $60 million will be available for grants for housing activities through the state housing trust fund, otherwise known as PHARE. We advocated for an increase of revenue for PHARE which makes this $60 million possible. So many of you joined in this advocacy so let’s give ourselves and our legislative champions a pat on the back for great advocacy work once again this year!
#2. Whole Home Repair Statewide Funding Very soon, every county in PA will begin rolling out a total of $125 million for grants to homeowners and loans to landlords to make basic home repairs. We advocated for this program and funding. We will be working with those delivering the assistance to understand implementation successes and any challenges to be addressed in future iterations of the program.
#3. Housing Options Program We supported advocacy to provide $100 million to create this flexible new funding program made possible through federal American Rescue Plan dollars for building and preserving affordable housing across the state.
#4. Development Cost Relief We supported advocacy to provide an additional $150 million for gap financing for affordable housing projects that are facing significant budget shortfalls due to pandemic related and supply chain challenges.
#5. Blight Demolition Funding We supported advocacy for Senate Bill 439 which was passed and signed into law (as Act 149 of 2022) making the County Demolition Fund program permanent. Act 152 of 2016 was the original legislation that authorized a time-limited special deed and mortgage recording fee to be established to fund county demolition funds. Since it was signed into law, 24 counties have raised millions of dollars to tear down blighted and vacant buildings across PA.
#6-7. Land Bank regulatory barrier reducing bills We advocated for several state bills that reduce regulatory barriers for land banks including making land banks exempt from local realty transfer tax (HB 960 amended into HB2209 to become Act 125 of 2022) and allowing land banks to be a conservator under the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act (HB2210 which became Act No. 126 of 2022.)
#8-12 – PRACTICES & PROGRAM MODELS
The Housing Alliance explores and promotes smart, best practices that achieve greater outcomes in making housing more affordable. So many individuals and organizations are accomplishing so much. We profiled the following as examples for others as we all strive to achieve more.
#8. Two local eviction diversion programs are changing court case outcomes and keeping tenants in their homes. They show us that a small group of individuals really can change the way evictions are handled all across the state. We analyzed court data, talked to the program administrators, interviewed tenants benefiting from the program, and asked the participating judges their perspectives and opinions. Two individuals and their respective organizations deserve the credit for their leadership in charting a new course which has improved the lives of tenants and also benefited landlords since… no one wins when there is an eviction. In Chester County, the Friends Association and its CEO Jennifer Lopez and staff, and in Reading, Don Smith, Esq., Pro Bono Attorney, and Kimberly Talbot, City of Reading Human Relations Commission. (Are you a funder? You should fund their great work!) Full Report Series of Issue Briefs
#9. Linda Paugh and the Pocono Mountains United Way created a landlord-tenant mediation program during the pandemic to help tenants stay in their homes, resulting in a 98% success rate of keeping tenants housed and avoiding eviction. What is special about their program is their approach in meeting both tenants and landlords where they are. Specifically, they adjusted their program to meet the tenant’s and landlord’s needs and schedules rather than expecting them to adjust to meet the program. Watch Video
#10. Trek Development – a developer and property manager – demonstrates that what’s best for tenants can also be best for landlords. Their outreach to tenants when tenants are behind on rent has resulted in a 98% rent collection rate. When a tenant is behind on rent, Trek doesn’t file for eviction as the first step. Instead, Trek staff contact the tenant – even knocking on their door if necessary – and work to connect them to available resources. Landlords have to consider their business interests. But thanks to Trek for showing us all that what’s best for the tenant can also be best for the landlord. Watch Video
#11. Allegheny County Housing Authority is another landlord that is working overtime to connect tenants to resources rather than filing for eviction as the first step. Housing Authority staff refer public housing residents behind on rent to third party assistance organizations that can help reopen the lines of communications and access resources. Public Housing is for many the housing of last resort and Housing Authority leadership is leveraging every resource and partner in the community to help keep residents stable in their homes. Watch Video
#12. Our Annual Homes Within Reach Conference was the place to be for 844 of you. The conference offers a place for learning, networking, and connecting and attendees tell us the conference has a lasting impact on how you do your jobs. Here’s what a few of you told us: “Awesome feedback. New perspectives. Learned new things and various ways to have the tough conversations.” “I enjoyed connecting with individuals from my area of the state who I had only met virtually! Learning about different programs working around the state.” “The sessions were amazing. They covered a broad array of topics and I wish I could have attended more than I did.”“I loved the atmosphere. Great attendees and organizations united for a common cause.” Thanks to the 135 of you that sponsored the annual conference once again this year. Because of your support, we were able to host 844 attendees and 177 speakers in 57 plenary and workshop sessions designed to inspire, educate, and connect. We are especially proud of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion track that offered both inspiration and practical suggestions for ensuring that we all fully embrace DEI in our internal organization and fully understand how our work matters for racial equity and justice.
#13 – 22 – VOICES & LEADERS
The Housing Alliance convenes and listens to people that have lived the problem of homelessness, housing instability, and/or poverty as well as those that are delivering the assistance on the front lines. Because smart and effective policies and programs begin with the experiences and expertise of both.
#13. 30 organizations hosted Community Conversations where Housing Alliance staff spoke to 333 people who had experienced homelessness, housing instability, and/or poverty. We are using these experiences to guide and inform our policy agenda and program initiatives. And we are providing support to engage those with lived experience in state and federal advocacy. What we heard more than anything else is related to expanding what we often call “housing and service navigation.” People with lived experience told us that this is what helped them apply for and receive the help they needed. Too often it continues to be confusing and frustrating to apply for available resources, especially when the person in need is stressed and may feel desperate.
#14. 15 organizations participated with us to engage the people they serve in voter registration. Voting is often the first step to greater civic participation. Through our partnership with Nonprofit Vote, we provided materials and resources to support these organizations in engaging the people they serve in voter registration. We will have an analysis of what we achieved in 2022 soon. But thanks to Nonprofit Vote, we know that the work of 21 Pennsylvania organizations through this initiative and leading up to the 2020 Presidential election did turn out more voters among the groups that are least likely to vote.
#15, 16, 17. Peer Exchanges Sometimes you learn the most by talking to your peer who is tackling a similar challenge in another community. The Housing Alliance convenes time-limited peer exchanges on specific topics designed to help those delivering the assistance at the local level connect to others to share lessons learned, successes, and challenges. This year we convened Peer Exchanges for: ERAP (Emergency Rental Assistance Program) administrators including local government and nonprofit organizations Landlord-Tenant Mediation Programs PA Land Bank Network. We also provided mini-grants to several land banks through a competitive process to assist them with flexible funding to acquire blighted properties and make them available for affordable housing.
We highlighted these incredible individuals at our annual Homes Within Reach conference along with so many more!
#18. Father Paul Abernathy, Founding CEO, Neighborhood Resilience Project I’m going to quote myself here. After Father Paul Abernathy inspired, challenged, and motivated us to use trauma informed community development to transform neighborhoods to resilient healing and healthy communities, I went to the podium and said “Umm… I knew you were going to be good. But I had no idea that you would completely blow me away.” Check out the Neighborhood Resilience Project and his TedTalk at TedX Pittsburgh.
#19. Reverend Violet Little, Pastor and Developer of The Welcome Church, a Church without Walls in Philadelphia, PA reminds us that those of you working directly with people in need have super powers! The Housing Alliance makes an award to a frontline leader each year during our annual conference because you front line leaders do a lot of hard work that is not always acknowledged. As the Frontline Leader Award Winner for 2022, Rev. Little inspires and uplifts. She has built a network among and around the people she helps who seek permanent housing.
#20. Youth advocates remind us that wisdom is not always a product of age. I am wiser as I age. But contrary to popular belief, you can be young and already be wise. Dominque Marshall, Idelia Robinson, and Liam Spady shared their knowledge born out of their own lived experiences during the closing plenary of this year’s Homes Within Reach conference. Part of the work is making room. The Housing Alliance seeks to lift up and make room for this wisdom and advocacy for a better Pennsylvania.
Our team continues to rock.
#21. The Housing Alliance Team is small but mighty. I am incredibly grateful for the combination of smarts, passion, and skills that each team member brings to the organization.
#22. Every nonprofit organization needs a stellar Board of Directors, and the Housing Alliance has one. Thanks to each of them who volunteer their time to make the organization better.
I look forward to more innovation, creativity, accomplishments, and learning in 2023.
Phyllis Chamberlain, Executive Director