Pennsylvania Considers Increasing Funding for Affordable Housing Programmes

Pennsylvania lawmakers are currently deliberating on how to allocate the state’s substantial $14 billion budget surplus, with a proposed increase in funding for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) emerging as a key priority.

PHARE, established to address housing affordability issues across the state, currently caps its annual funding at $60 million. Governor Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, has proposed raising this cap to $100 million as part of his budget agenda.

Shapiro’s spokesperson, Manuel Bonder, emphasized the critical role of PHARE in making housing more affordable in Pennsylvania. He highlighted bipartisan support for the proposed increase, noting that Republican-sponsored bills aiming for the $100 million cap have previously cleared legislative hurdles.

The need for expanded funding is underscored by a recent study from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, revealing a shortage of affordable housing for residents earning at least 20% below local median incomes. Over the past decade, home prices and rental rates have steadily risen, exacerbating housing challenges statewide.

Aaron Zappia, from the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, praised PHARE for its flexibility in addressing various housing needs, from preventing homelessness to revitalizing blighted neighborhoods. He emphasized that both Democrats and Republicans recognize the program’s effectiveness in their respective communities.

Shapiro’s proposal outlines a gradual increase in PHARE funding, adding $10 million annually until reaching $100 million by 2028. Additionally, the governor seeks to allocate an additional $50 million to the Whole-Home Repairs Program, targeting essential repairs for low-income homeowners.

Bonder highlighted another aspect of Shapiro’s proposal: replacing PHARE’s current funding formula with a guaranteed transfer mechanism. This change aims to ensure that PHARE consistently receives its allocated funds, which are primarily sourced from the state’s realty transfer tax and other revenue streams.

While State House Democrats are aligned with Shapiro’s proposal, negotiations with Senate Republicans remain ongoing. The final state budget, originally due on June 30, continues to be a subject of debate and compromise among lawmakers.

Despite the legislative process’s complexities, there is optimism among advocates like Abby Chiumento, communications director for State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. (R., Beaver), who expressed hope for a favorable outcome in the ongoing budget negotiations.

Since its inception in 2010, PHARE has been instrumental in funding housing initiatives statewide, administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The program supports a wide range of projects, from nonprofit initiatives to county-led efforts aimed at addressing local housing challenges.

Former State Representative Sara Innamorato, now Allegheny County Executive, stressed the urgency of increased funding for PHARE, citing numerous worthy projects that currently go unfunded due to budget constraints.

“As communities seek to address various housing needs, PHARE provides the necessary flexibility to tailor solutions,” Innamorato remarked, reflecting on her past advocacy for increasing the PHARE funding cap during her tenure in the State House.

With housing affordability remaining a pressing issue across Pennsylvania, the debate over PHARE funding underscores the state’s commitment to expanding access to safe and affordable housing for all residents.

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