Advocacy Corner, Issue 7 of 2021, May
From the Desk of Brian Fuss
Policy & Program Director
As summer approaches, over 3 million Pennsylvanians are currently vaccinated. With lovely spring weather and vaccinations of the general population, it is a perfect time to advance the Housing Alliance’s vision that every Pennsylvanian have a decent home within reach that supports their physical, emotional, and mental health. To make that vision a reality, we have been
- pushing for $10 million in tax credits to fund Act 107 of 2020 or the state housing tax credit
- recommending a new emergency rental assistance program to meet the needs of communities in the Commonwealth
- developing more educational opportunities for our network
- following and supporting vital legislation to combat blight
- working tirelessly with the National Low Income Housing Coalition on its hoUSed campaign
There has been a flurry of activity around the Housing Alliance and in Harrisburg and Washington DC.
Housing Alliance’s 2021-2022 Policy and Legislative Priorities
In the Housing Alliance’s April 2021 Housing Uncovered newsletter, we unveiled our immediate policy and legislative priorities. The Housing Alliance and the Pennsylvania Developer’s Council met with state Senators and Representatives and their staffs to discuss providing $10 million in tax credits annually for Act 107 of 2020 or the state housing tax credit. The feedback from these meetings was positive, but more members need to understand the importance of these tax credits for building decent homes for lower-income Pennsylvanians in all Commonwealth counties.
Another immediate legislative and policy ask is to create a statewide emergency rental assistance program that mirrors new federal requirements from the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (H.R. 1319). Almost half of the current administrators running the emergency rental assistance program from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) and the statewide program, Act 1 of 2021, come together monthly to exchange solutions. With input from these conversations, we have met with the PA Senate and House of Representatives Appropriations and Urban Affairs committee executive directors to explain how to implement the emergency rental program from the American Rescue Plan in ways that both assists more Pennsylvanians and does so quickly.
Our other immediate legislative and policy agenda items are the passage of several bills related to preventing blight and encouraging community development. These include the passage of HB 264 (Requiring bidder registration at tax sales), HB 581 (Which provides municipalities options for property tax abatements and exemptions to support low-income households and to expand affordable housing), and HB 610 (Grants land banks protections when redeveloping brownfields).
HB 264 was voted out of the House of Representatives and is in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. We urge Senators to vote HB 264 out of committee in May. HB 581 is currently in the House Appropriations Committee and, again, the Housing Alliance urges swift passage out of committee, onto the floor, and into the next chamber in May. HB 610 is in the House Urban Affairs Committee and we recommend that the House Urban Affairs Committee members vote ‘yea’ to advance it to the floor.
PA General Assembly
Currently, we are monitoring 70 bills in the PA General Assembly. Before discussing a few bills, the Housing Alliance congratulates Rep. Brown (R-189) on her April appointment as the new chairwoman of the House Urban Affairs Committee. We look forward to working with Rep. Brown in the coming weeks, months, and years as we work closely with this committee.
Two of the bills we are tracking are SB 439 and SB 157. SB 439, removes the sunset clause of 10 years on the recorder of deeds fee for the county demolition fund. Recorder of deeds fees have been instrumental in funding the demolition of blighted and abandoned buildings throughout the Commonwealth. SB 439 had its first consideration in the Senate on April 28th and is currently on the Senate calendar for May 24th. SB 157 creates a first-time home buyer’s savings account. On April 28th, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee voted this legislation out of committee, 10-1. This legislation had its second consideration in the Senate on May 10th and was re-referred to Senate Appropriations.
To fulfill our mission and accomplish our vision, the Housing Alliance continuously engages our network to call, email, and visit state elected officials to educate them on creating decent housing for all Pennsylvanians.
During the first and second weeks of May, 12 of our network friends contacted their Senators and Representatives to discuss the importance of following the federal requirements for the newest emergency rental assistance program.
Additionally, the Housing Alliance is announcing Housing Solutions Week from May 28 to June 4, 2021, highlighting state and national efforts to transform the Commonwealth’s housing infrastructure for everyone. We cannot wait until next month to talk more about how our efforts went advocating and educating.
There is a lot happening in the U.S. Congress and at the White House these days, it is hard to keep up with all the housing infrastructure discussions and legislation. There are three vital housing-related pieces of legislation that have been proposed or introduced. The American Jobs Plan is a set of priorities that creates more sustainable employment opportunities, fixes our infrastructure, and develops more housing. Among the housing priorities are expanding rental assistance, ensuring public housing authorities have the money they need to fix their housing, and adding $40 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund.
The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 (S. 1136/H.R. 2573) was introduced by Senators Cantwell (D-WA), Young (R-IN), Wyden (D-OR), and Portman (R-OH), and its identical House companion legislation was introduced by Representatives DelBene (D-WA), Walorski (R-IN), Beyer (D-VA), and Wenstrup (R-OH) on April 15, 2021. This legislation would expand and strengthen the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
Sen. Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced the Public Housing Emergency Response Act (S.598/H.R. 235) on March 4, 2021 and January 6, 2021, respectively. This bill fully addresses the $70 billion capital needs backlog to repair and preserve public housing for current and future generations.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently launched the hoUSed Campaign to “advance bold housing solutions that move our nation towards universal, stable, and affordable homes for everyone!” We are excited to be part of this campaign and will keep you updated on its progress and how you can take action.
Let me end by sharing President Biden’s message from the State of the Union on April 28, 2021. “America [and the Housing Alliance] is on the move again!” Together we will move to ensure the Commonwealth’s housing infrastructure is the best in the nation.
PS: As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.