April 2022 Legislative Update

Co-sponsorship Memos Circulated for Raising the PHARE Funding Cap

State Senators Elder Vogel and Art Haywood, along with State Representative Matt Dowling, have circulated co-sponsorship memos to raise the cap on PHARE funding.

Identical House and Senate memos propose eliminating the $40 million limit on RTT funds deposited into the PHARE Fund annually and instead employ a tiered cap approach over three fiscal years, to end with a final cap of $100 million in 2024-25. In years 2022-23, the cap would be raised to $55 million, in 2023-24 the cap would raise to $75 million, and in the final years of 2024-25, the cap would reach its new limit of $100 million.

This is a first, but important, step in the legislative process because it announces the details of forthcoming legislation and invites legislators to officially register their support as co-sponsors.  Once the bills are drafted and receive numbers, they are anticipated to be referred to the Senate and House committees on Urban Affairs. 

The following links will take you to the memos: 

Now is the time to contact your legislators and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors.

Blight Package Reported from House Urban Affairs Committee

On April 12th, the House Urban Affairs Committee, approved four bills aimed at addressing blight throughout the Commonwealth.  The bills reported were unanimously passed with bipartisan support and amendments.

The package includes the following bills:

  • House Bill 2209, sponsored by Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Butler/Indiana), would allow a land bank board to establish a virtual quorum via internet platform to conduct a board meeting. The bill was amended in committee to exempt land banks from state and local realty transfer tax and to expand the powers of land banks to partner with the private sector to find solutions to address housing for homeless populations.
  • House Bill 1791, sponsored by Rep. Tim Twardzik (R-Schuylkill), would authorize municipalities to create a vacant and blight property registration program. The legislation was amended in committee to include the creation of a matching grant program administered by DCED to help fund special code enforcement programs to prevent and help eliminate blighted properties.
  • House Bill 2210, sponsored by Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), would add a provision to the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act for a land bank to be appointed conservator.
  • Senate Bill 439, sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill), would continue the County Demolition Funding Program.

The bill package has now moved to the full House for consideration.

HB 581, Tax Abatements for Creation of Affordable Housing Approved by Senate Committee

On March 29th, the Senate Urban Affairs Committee approved HB 581 introduced by Representative Jared Solomon (D, Philadelphia).   

The legislation will allow local taxing authorities to expand access to affordable housing.  The bill gives local authorities a menu of options to pass tax abatements or exemptions for the creation or improvements of affordable housing, whether for homeownership or rentals.  Use of these abatements is entirely up to local policymakers, and in some cases, offers various exemption schedules to tailor the tax relief to the needs and budgetary constraints they face. 

The legislation may now be considered by the full Senate. 

Whole Home Repair, SB 1135

The Whole Home Repair Fund created by SB 1135 will allow providers to assess and address homes holistically by creating a one-stop shop for home repairs. DCED will solicit competitive proposals from nonprofit and public sector organizations seeking to enhance existing programs through the provision of all the following services:  

  • Emergency and basic system repairs necessary to address habitability concerns   
  • Technical assistance and case management for homeowners and landlords  to  coordinate programs and achieve comprehensive home repairs 
  • Wraparound supports for job-seekers enrolled in workforce development programs  

The legislation, which is now before the Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee, would allow homeowners and small landlords to apply for grants and loans up to $50,000 to address habitability and energy efficiency concerns.  Grants would be available for homeowners whose household income does not exceed 80% of area median income.  Repayable loans are provided for landlords who provide affordable units to households earning not more than 60% of area median income.  These loans will be forgiven if the landlord has owned the property for at least 15 years, has no violations, and agrees to extend the tenant’s lease for up to three years and increase rent no more than 3% annually. 

There are billions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding from the federal government and a projected surplus of more than $6 billion in state revenue.  

The Housing Alliance will participate in and lead various advocacy efforts and lobby days in coming weeks in support of the Whole Home Repair bill.