A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to create a new state fund for people who can’t afford basic home repairs or weatherization.
Introduced earlier this month, the Whole-Home Repairs Act would provide eligible residents with grants of up to $50,000. Small landlords could apply for the same amount in the form of a forgivable loan.
The bipartisan legislation also calls for workforce training, as well as support staff who can help participants coordinate their repairs. For example, a leaky roof needs to be fixed before a home can be weatherized.
“Everyone wants to be able to support people in maintaining the most affordable home that they have, which is the home they already live in,” said state Sen. Nikil Saval, who introduced the measure.
The bill comes as homeowners and landlords across the state continue to struggle financially as a result of the pandemic.
In Philadelphia, an emergency rental assistance program run by the city has roughly 25,000 applications that have yet to be reviewed. More than 80,000 renters and landlords applied during the current phase of the program.
A recent survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, found that a much higher percentage of landlords deferred maintenance on their properties in 2020 than in 2019.
Over time, mounting repair bills could translate to more properties becoming uninhabitable or unaffordable, the researchers said.
Saval said hopes to secure funding for the new program in the upcoming budget. He said fully-funding the legislation could take upwards of $1 billion, though he doesn’t expect or necessarily want the initiative to start with that kind of cash.
“You kind of need to scale up slowly,” said Saval. “I think some amount of money in this budget, that we will hopefully pass in June, would be great to create the fund.”
Saval’s office is hosting a week-long awareness campaign around the legislation. It starts Monday at Hawthorne Park in Philadelphia.
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