Our Top Priorities, Legislation Moving Now, and Bills to Watch
This information is up to date as of October 2023
Raising the PHARE Funding Cap
PHARE is the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).
Also known as the state housing trust fund, PHARE delivers tens of millions each year to communities in every county to expand low-income housing, prevent homelessness, remediate blight, and promote home ownership. Click here to learn more about the PHARE program.
After successfully advocating for a cap increase of $20 million in 2022, the Housing Alliance is still working towards our goal of increasing the program’s cap to $100 million.
A PHARE Cap increase to $100 million over three years is included in tax code legislation (HB1219) passed by the PA House on October 3, 2023. The legislation awaits consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.
Two free standing PHARE cap bills advanced this session
State Senator Elder Vogel’s SB 532 was approved by the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee on June 6th and re-referred to Senate Appropriations.
The House approved former Rep. Sara Innamorato’s HB 1316 on June 27th and the legislation was referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing on July 6th.
Whole Home Repairs Funding
After a monumental win securing $150 million for Whole Home Repairs in 2022, we are seeking permanent funding for the newly created program.
The PA House approved $50 million in state funding for Whole Home Repairs in 2023, and we are working to ensure a future Fiscal Code contains the necessary directive to utilize the funding.
HAP has been working with Whole Home Repairs County Administrators from across the Commonwealth to gain feedback on the program, convene a peer exchange group, and meet with legislators to recommend policy changes and seek additional funding.
We look forward to future legislative hearings on Whole Home Repairs in 2024 to both improve and fund the program.
Legislation Moving Now
Several pieces of housing legislation are currently advancing in the General Assembly. Here are the bills we are working to get across the finish line this session:
Housing bills that have passed one chamber:
- HB 255—Rep. Robert Merski—Establishes the Municipal Property Maintenance Code Assistance Fund. DCED grant program to provide grants to municipalities to establish code enforcement programs and to hire code enforcement personnel.
- HB 859—Rep. Dan Williams—Provides local governments the power to deny a permit to an LLC not only when the LLC has delinquencies but also if one of the principals of the LLC has delinquencies in the municipality.
- HB 1163—Rep. Abigail Salisbury: Amends Title 68 to allow a municipality to designate a blighted or abandoned property as available for acquisition by a land bank. This would only be done if an owner demonstrates they are not using the property through years of neglect and abandonment. The bill will require a municipality to provide advance notification to a property owner and give ample opportunity for the owner to remediate the property.
- HB 1207—Rep. Freeman: Would permit a municipality of any size to establish a land bank.
- HB 1062—Rep. Mike Sturla: Creates a statewide blight data collection system using property code violations. Managed by DCED, the Property Maintenance Code Violations Registry will be populated with property maintenance code violation reports filed by municipalities. Passage in the House on October 3rd.
- SB 466—Sen. Rosemary Brown—Environmental Protection for Land Banks. Last Action: Laid on the Table in the House, May 24th.
Senate Bills Awaiting Further Action:
- SB 149—Sen. Jim Brewster: Counties may charge a fee up to $250 on the sale of property pursuant to mortgage foreclosure to be used to establish a demolition and rehab fund. The Fund would be available to any entity that contracts with the county or land bank / redevelopment authority. Last Action: Reported from Senate Appropriations June 22nd. **Laid on the table October 2nd.
- SB 517— Sen. Dave Argall: IncreasesCounty Demolition Fund of up to $1 at the discretion of each county and allows for inflation adjustments tied to Consumer Price Index. **Re-referred to Appropriations June 27th.
- SB 802— Sen. Frank Farry: Would create aBlight Remediation Loan Fund forRedevelopment Authorities. DCED would offer low interest loans (2% per year) for Redevelopment Authorities. The legislation requests a $10MM appropriation for max loans of $500K. **Reported from Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, June 21st, re-referred to Appropriations on September 18th.
Bills to Watch
- SB 543—Senator Amanda Cappeletti—Makes enhancements to the Optional County Affordable Housing Trust Fund (Act 137) that were recommended in a report prepared by the Reinvestment Fund and Real Estate Strategies, Inc., Pennsylvania’s Housing Trust Funds: Current Conditions and Opportunities for the Future (January 2020). The legislation will offer three important changes to Act 137 including increasing the maximum amount of fees that can be collected, impose reporting requirements, and establish a Local Housing Trust Fund Community of Practice.
- SB 124—Senator Katie Muth: Would prohibit property owners from denying housing to individuals based solely on their lawful source of income, including housing vouchers, pension payments, child support, and public assistance. Last Action: Referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing, January 19, 2023.
- SB 376—Senator Vincent Hughes: Establishes the Commonwealth Housing Council. The 15 members of the council will include: the Commonwealth Departments of Community and Economic Development, Human Services, and Budget; the Housing Finance Agency; members from each caucus of the General Assembly; representation from first class and second-class counties; and a representative from groupings of counties. Last Action: Referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing, February 16, 2023.
- SB 616—Senator Vincent Hughes: Would require the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), in collaboration with local housing agencies, to create a publicly accessible database of all publicly financed properties in the Commonwealth. The database will include information concerning the location of the property, the name of the owner, the anticipated termination date for affordability restrictions, and whether the affordability program or programs affecting the property can be extended. Last Action: Referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing, April 24, 2023.
- SB 859—Senator Judy Schwank: This legislation will establish reusable tenant screening reports in an effort to simplify the costly application process. RTSRs will include all the vital information for the landlord: name, contact information, employment verification, and background check history. At a time when many are struggling to keep up with the cost of living, Pennsylvania’s renters deserve some relief. Last Action: Referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing, July 27, 2023.
- SB 860—Senator Judy Schwank: Would cap rental application fees at $25 per application. In doing so, we can ensure no renter is deterred by excessive fees associated with an application. Last Action: Referred to Senate Urban Affairs and Housing, July 27, 2023.
- HB 775—Rep. Tim Twardzik— Establishes the “Vacant Property Registration Act” that allows communities to create and maintain a vacant property registration, which is a blight fighting, smart growth tool used to stabilize and re-develop communities. Laid on the Table (House), May 24th.
- HB 1090—Rep. Alec Ryncavage— Would allow counties to enact a property maintenance ordinance to help ensure the health and safety of its residents as well as those who want to safeguard the value of their property. Notice of consideration on the ordinance must be published and the public will have access to the proposal before a county could enact it.
Counties that adopt a property maintenance ordinance will have enforcement power, including the ability to levy fines when properties are in violation of the ordinance. Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on May 2, 2023.
- HB 1236—Rep. Justin Fleming—Would require mortgage lenders to maintain foreclosed properties. Referred to House Housing and Community Development on May 24, 2023.
- HB 1206—Rep Freeman—Environmental Liability Protection for Land Banks. Referred to Housing and Community Development on May 19th.
- HB 96—Rep. Donna Bullock: Would prohibit landlords from inquiring or requiring disclosure about certain arrest records of potential tenants as a condition of a lease. Some of these records would include juvenile records, arrests with no convictions, convictions older than seven years, or any conviction that is not a felony or misdemeanor. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development on March 7, 2023.
- HB 366—Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson: Would impose a cap of $20 on rental application fees. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on March 14, 2023.
- HB 681—Rep. Mike Sturla: Would require a lead test for any residential structure built prior to 1978 that is being rented or leased. The results and date of the test would be supplied to those occupying the premises. It also would require municipalities to maintain a list of the lead test results for these properties. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee, March 23, 2023.
- HB 765—Rep Kinkead: Would simplify and standardize tenants’ rights in Pennsylvania by applying the protections created for mobile home park tenants under the Mobile Home Park Rights Act (MHPRA) to all housing tenants, regardless of the type of rental. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on March 30, 2023.
- HB 805—Reps. Liz Hanbidge and Melissa Cerrato: Legislation to require mobile home park owners to publicly post a proposed rent increase 6 months before it would go into effect. This bill will also allow mobile home tenants to present their case to a magisterial district judge if the proposed rent increase is above inflation. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on April 3, 2023.
- HB 1257—Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Tarik Khan: Would require a developer of a project with 30 or more residential units to reserve 25% of those units for very low to middle income housing. Under the bill, in lieu of requiring this construction, a municipality would be able to impose a fee equal to 30% of the project cost. The fees collected from the developer would be deposited into an affordable housing trust fund for the development of very low to middle income housing in the municipality or for the development of community centers. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on May 24, 2023.
- HB 1294—Rep. Smith-Wade-El: Creates a statewide housing councilwith the responsibility of working with executive departments and agencies to develop a uniform set of housing goals, benchmarks, and priorities. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on June 1, 2023.
- HB 1386—Rep Thomas Kutz and Joshua Siegel: Legislation to allow municipalities to be designated as an “Attainable Housing Community” if they meet certain criteria, in an effort to encourage municipalities to think creatively to address housing needs.
The legislation would allow municipalities to claim the designation of an “Attainable Housing Community”, if they do the following:
1. Allow for accessory dwelling units in some of their municipal zoning ordinances, and
2. Provide adaptive solutions for “missing middle”, middle income, and workforce housing needs, and
3. Allow for mixed use commercial or retail and residential development, where appropriate.
Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on June 13, 2023.
- HB 1549—Rep. Dave Madsen: Legislation would require a landlord to pay a permanently displaced tenant a relocation payment equal to six months’ rent if the rental property has code violations that require the condemnation of the property, or the property is deemed unfit for human habitation. A landlord would also be obligated to pay a temporarily displaced tenant with a relocation payment equal to one months’ rent and provide alternative, temporary housing. Last Action: Referred to House Housing and Community Development Committee on June 29, 2023.