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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: June 4, 2021 11:14 AM
From: Senator Nikil Saval
To: All Senate members
Subject: Stabilizing Homes and Communities
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation to allocate $150 million of the Commonwealth’s allocation from the State Fiscal Relief Fund authorized through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for housing-related infrastructure.

Pennsylvania has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation: approximately one fifth of our homes were built before 1940. Decades of stagnant wages and the deterioration of family-sustaining jobs throughout the Commonwealth mean that 12% of Pennsylvanians live on incomes that are below the poverty line. As these homes age, their owners struggle to keep up with needed repairs and maintenance, let alone to make important improvements that can lower energy burdens. When their homes fall into disrepair, homeowners are pushed to make a hard decision. Do they live in their homes without the means to maintain them, or leave their homes and communities to enter housing and rental markets that are markedly different? All homeowners should be able to replace a leaky roof, to make safe upgrades to heating or electric systems, and to make adaptive modifications so that they, or a loved one, can age in place.

Keeping people housed has emerged as an important public health strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has also exacerbated preexisting social inequities and widened the cracks in our state and municipal services. Thousands of Pennsylvanians are out of work, without savings to maintain their homes. In the face of the current crisis, even more of Pennsylvania’s seniors will desire to age in place and will need their homes to meet their changing physical needs. In addition, local governments, facing budget crises, have downsized such that departments and programs are constrained when Pennsylvanians need them the most. 

Utilizing the ARP funds for housing-related infrastructure will help reverse both trends. Under my plan, the $150 million in funding would be awarded through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). These funds would be used for: 

  • Lead abatement and remediation; 
  • Housing weatherization projects; 
  • Basic systems repair; 
  • Adaptive modifications; and
  • Technical assistance and outreach to homeowners. 

Because housing is a key tool in fighting COVID-19, and because Pennsylvanians will likely experience the financial hardships caused by the pandemic for years to come, the U.S. Treasury guidance on the ARP has presumed that building stronger communities through investment in housing and neighborhoods is included as part of the nonexclusive list of uses that “address the disproportionate negative economic effects of COVID-19.” Additionally, Treasury has included in their guidance projects relating to remediation of lead paint or other lead hazards and programs or services that address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing, and homelessness, including the development of affordable housing to increase supply of affordable and high-quality living units. A robust housing program could create as many as 2,010 jobs across the Commonwealth.

COVID-19 has exposed a long-neglected need to address housing in our communities. I believe that we can increase access to quality, affordable housing by helping our most vulnerable constituents live and thrive in the place they already call home. With my plan, Pennsylvania homeowners can remain housed without worry of deteriorating conditions. Local programs can rebuild capacity so that they are better equipped to help Pennsylvanians to maintain their homes. To ensure that homeowners, seniors, and low income families are not displaced, please join me in sponsoring this legislation.