PA Democrats Push for Permanent Funding for Home Repair Program Amid Huge Demand

Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) speaking at a Whole Home Repairs Rally on the Capitol Steps in Harrisburg on May 1, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

June 21, 2023

The program, which allows low-income residents and small-scale landlords to apply for government-funded grants to weatherize and make the necessary repairs to their homes, has received so many applications that housing advocates are calling for recurring permanent funding in the Pennsylvania Budget.

To say Pennsylvania’s Whole Home Repairs Program is popular would be putting it mildly. 

The program, which allows low-income residents and small-scale landlords to apply for government-funded grants to weatherize and make the necessary repairs to their homes, has received so many applications that housing advocates are calling for recurring permanent funding in the Pennsylvania Budget.

According to Kyle Webster from Action-Housing Inc., there have been over 2,600 applications for 250 grants in Allegheny County since the application process began on May 30, and that number will continue to grow as the June 30 deadline approaches. 

Action-Housing is the oldest housing non-profit organization in Allegheny County, and is responsible for administering grants for the Whole Home Repairs Program in the county. 

In an interview, Webster said people are excited about the program.

“If you drive around Pittsburgh, you can see that there are a lot of issues around blight. We are a region that saw substantial investment for a very long time and then saw substantial de-investment for a very long time,” he said. “Certain neighborhoods more than others were very intentionally redlined, very intentionally not invested in, et cetera. So there’s a lot of people living in homes that while they do exist — they are these people’s homes — they are not habitable in the way we think people have the right to live in their homes.”  

Demand for the program has been high across the state. Lehigh County stopped accepting applications after just eight hours due to the amount they received. In Luzerne County, officials have received more than 10 times the amount of applications than grants that can be distributed.

The program was introduced by State Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) and gained support in the House from State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny). They allied with progressive organizations such as Pennsylvania Stands Up and Make the Road PA, an organization that fights for immigrant rights, and their advocacy helped to secure $125 million for the program in the 2022-2023 budget.

“Frankly we’re not surprised,” Saval said of the demand for the program. “This is why we did the bill. We knew that the need was enormous. That the demand would be just as enormous, and we’re seeing that across the commonwealth.

“But we need more, and I think that we need more to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has a right to safe, secure and stable housing,” Saval added.

Saval, Innamorato, and their fellow House Democrats are looking to increase the program’s funding to $200 million in the 2023-2024 budget and to make it a permanent part of the state budget.

 “We would like there to be permanent funding,” Innamorato said. “I think setting it up as a special fund sends a signal that we want it to be something that is funded year over year as opposed to finding a revenue source for it.”

“This year it is going to come from the general fund, but I think in years leading up to it we can figure out how that $200 million gets into that special fund,” she added.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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