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2017 Legislative Agenda

#homesnotblight

1. Help Communities Address Blight, End Homelessness, and Provide Homes within Reach

The US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) administer programs that provide safe, secure, affordable homes to hundreds of thousands of low income Pennsylvanians. In addition, cities and towns across the commonwealth rely on HUD and USDA funding to address blighted properties and revitalize communities. Congress must provide adequate funding for HUD and USDA housing and community development programs to end homelessness, repurpose vacant and abandoned properties, and ensure a home within reach of all Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania state budget also provides resources to address homelessness, provide home modifications for people with disabilities, and assist community revitalization efforts. Yet these funds have been reduced dramatically over the past decade. An increased investment in Keystone Communities, the Homeless Assistance Program, and the Human Services Development Fund is necessary to address today’s needs.  

  STATUS: The Housing Alliance has been engaging its members to make the case for how federal and state housing and community development programs are critical to making progress at the local level.

2. Expand permanent supportive housing for the homeless and special needs populations; Keep the homeless, elderly, and disabled populations stably housed, in their own homes, and out of institutions by providing services through Medicaid

  People living with severe disabilities, including mental illness, chronic health conditions, and substance use disorders, too often cycle between the streets, hospital emergency rooms, and jails. This cycle is tragic and costly. There is a model called permanent supportive housing that ends this tragic cycle by keeping vulnerable populations stably housed and reducing the burden on and costs to the health care and corrections systems. Unfortunately, permanent supportive housing is not readily available and wait lists are long. One of the challenges is securing a reliable source of funding for the services component of this model. Medicaid can be used for the service component of this model if the state applies to the federal government for a waiver. In addition, the impact of this state policy change can assist the elderly and disabled populations to remain in their own homes. STATUS: The Housing Alliance has been engaging its members and partners to build support for making this change at the state level.

STATUS: The Housing Alliance has been engaging its members and partners to build support for making this change at the state level.

3. Increase the Neighborhood Assistance Program to Help the Most Vulnerable People

Established in 1967, the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) was a national pioneer in creating public/private and non-profit/for-profit partnerships to address the needs of impoverished neighborhoods. NAP provides a tax credit to businesses that contribute to nonprofit organizations engaged in enhancing the quality of life for low income Pennsylvanians. It can be used for a variety of activities including affordable homes, housing counseling, and blight remediation.   The allocation of $18 million has not changed since 1967 although requests for NAP tax credits are 2 to 3 times the amount of credits available.   STATUS: HB 645 and SB 512 have been introduced to increase the NAP allocation to $36 million. HB 645 was amended and approved by the House Finance Committee on May 9.  It also had its initial reading (the first of three) by the full House on May 9 and is now pending further action.

  STATUS: HB 645 and SB 512 have been introduced to increase the NAP allocation to $36 million. HB 645 was amended and approved by the House Finance Committee on May 9.  It also had its initial reading (the first of three) by the full House on May 9 and is now pending further action.

4. Help Counties Expand the Availability of Affordable Homes

The Optional County Affordable Housing Act, commonly known as Act 137, allows counties to enact housing fees on the recording of deeds and mortgages. The fees go into county run Affordable Housing Funds to support an array of programs and housing developments. Most counties in the state have Act 137 funds. There is a limitation on the amount of the fee, however. It can be no more than 100% of the recording fee that was in effect when Act 137 became law, in February 1993. Even if a county has raised its recording fees since then it cannot raise the housing fund fee (other than Philadelphia). Removing the February 1993 restriction would allow counties to increase fees up to the current recording fee level and provide more resources for homes within reach of their residents.  
  STATUS: No bill has been introduced yet. Building support among county commissioners and state legislators is important now.

5. Help Long-Time Residents Gain Clear Title

HB 352 and SB 434 would establish a process whereby long-term residents can gain clear title to the properties they have lived in after 10 years rather than the current 21, making it easier for them to maintain their homes. The bills would apply where the owner of record has died or disappeared The bills only apply to single family homes on a half acre or less. This is a “tangled title” and blight prevention strategy.  
STATUS: HB 352 and SB 434 were introduced.

6. Enable Local Tax Abatement for Mixed-Use Development.

HB 758 provides for Tax Abatements for Mixed-Used Developments. Current law covers residential tax abatements and, in a separate statute, commercial; mixed-used developments are not covered. This bill would address that problem and help incentivize investments in older communities.  
STATUS: HB 758 was introduced.

7. Establish a Code Enforcement Grants Program

Last session’s HB 648 would have created a Codes Enforcement Grants Program, allowing municipalities to apply for funds to either start or expand a codes office.The program would be funded with a $1 surcharge on building permits. Municipalities would be required to make a 1:1 match.
STATUS: No bill has been re-introduced. Building support among state legislators is critical now.

8. Ensure Timely Compliance with Code Enforcement

Land banks are having a positive impact on communities across PA. But as they buy and sell properties they are finding that the Realty Transfer Tax is impacting their budgets.  An exemption from the state share of the RTT was passed in July, 2016, but legislation is needed to cover the local RTT.  
STATUS: HB 1076 was reintroduced.

9. Zombie Titles

Zombie Titles sometimes occur when a homeowner believes s/he has lost a property in foreclosure and leaves, often after a judgment in foreclosure has been entered against him/her, but the bank doesn’t complete the foreclosure process and take title leaving no one to take care of the property. The situation is referred to “zombie titles” because years after the foreclosure the homeowner who defaulted is called to task for maintenance or past due taxes. The deed, which is still in his name, comes back to haunt him. Pennsylvania must make it clear that foreclosing lenders are responsible for maintaining properties until a new owner takes title.  
  STATUS: As of May 15, 2017, language to address this problem was drafted as an amendment for inclusion in fast track foreclosure bills below.

10. Establish Fast Track Foreclosure for Vacant Properties

Properties that sit vacant during the foreclosure can cause harm to their communities. A “fast-track” process for foreclosing on vacant properties is good for the neighbors and for the foreclosing lenders. However, care must be taken to make sure the property is truly vacant and abandoned, and that lenders do not force vacancies in order to use the fast-track process. Fast-track foreclosure and zombie titles should be coupled to address the enduring impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods.  
  STATUS: HB 653 was introduced by Rep, Masser (R-107) in Feb. 2017.  It was approved with no amendments by the full House on May 9, and referred to the Senate Urban Affairs Committee on May 15. STATUS: SB 471, introduced by Sen. Blake (D-22) and referred to Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on March 1, where it is now pending.
Note: All of these bills are subject to amendment as they move through the legislative process. If you have questions or concerns about the Housing Alliance perspective, please contact David Hunter, Policy Director at (215) 576-7044 or david@housingalliancepa.org. We welcome our member’s input and involvement.  
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