Affordable housing advocates seek $25M

From the Post-Gazette
By Kate Giammarise
November 14, 2013

HARRISBURG — Affordable housing advocates are pushing for $25 million to be added to a statewide fund meant to improve the state’s housing stock and make rental homes more affordable.

The Pennsylvania Housing Trust Fund was established in 2010 by the Legislature but wasn’t funded. It’s supposed to provide rental assistance for families facing homelessness, money to rehab rental homes of low-income Pennsylvanians, modified housing for the elderly and people with disabilities, and for the demolition of blighted properties.

Tuesday, advocates kicked off a push to “fund the fund.”

In 2012, the Legislature directed $5 million annually from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee to the fund, but only for counties with shale drilling — currently 37 of the state’s 67 counties.

Funding for projects that expand the supply of affordable housing is money well-spent, said Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, speaking at a conference in Harrisburg on Tuesday, citing jobs created through development.

Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, chairman of the state Senate’s urban affairs and housing committee said, the funds can be a good tool to fight blight.

“At the end of the day, it still takes money to demolish an old building or to rehabilitate it,” said Mr. Argall, who represents a number of former mining communities in Schuylkill County.

Money from the fund would be distributed regionally through a competitive process, Ms. Hersh said. Money from the shale fee would continue to be spent in those communities, she said.

“It’s an investment strategy,” Ms. Hersh said of the fund. “It does require new revenue. But it pays dividends.”

Ms. Hersh said housing groups still are examining possible revenue sources, though she declined to identify any potential specific sources.

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Our own Liz Hersh, making headlines with Sen. Argall at Homes Within Reach