Income-Qualified Property Owners Can Now Apply For Home Rehabilitation Grants From Luzerne County
Residents of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania who are eligible based on their income will soon have access to grants aimed at preserving their aging homes. This initiative was unveiled by the county Community Development Director, Andrew Reilly.
While the full details of the program are still being finalized, Reilly stated that a public announcement about the application process and eligibility criteria will be made via various media outlets and the county website, luzernecounty.org. As such, interested property owners are advised to keep a keen eye out for this announcement.
This grant program, known as the Whole-Home Repairs Program, is expected to be formally introduced soon by the administration of Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro. In fact, Luzerne County is already publicly recognized as a recipient of at least $3.24 million for this program, following a county council vote that factored in the anticipated funds from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The county council has introduced a budget amendment to this effect and plans to conduct a public hearing as well as a final vote during its next regular meeting scheduled for March 14.
The implementation of the county program will be overseen by Reilly’s office, with administration delegated to the Commission on Economic Opportunity through a sub-recipient agreement. The program is funded in part by the state’s allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan and is designed to address habitability and safety issues, improve energy or water efficiency, and make residences accessible for individuals with disabilities.
While the state has set a single grant cap of $50,000, Luzerne County’s program might propose a lower limit to ensure more eligible property owners benefit from the funds. Reilly foresees the demand for these grants to outstrip available funding, due to the high level of interest that has already been expressed.
The state has stipulated that to be eligible, household income should not exceed 80% of the area’s median income. However, Reilly stated that precise income thresholds will be announced following further guidance from the state. It is currently unclear whether these thresholds will apply uniformly across all households or will vary based on family size.
When the county council sought state funding for the Whole-Home Repairs Program earlier this year, it emphasized that the program was the largest investment in housing that the Pennsylvania legislature has made in recent history. According to reports, one out of every four Pennsylvania residents lives in a home that needs critical repair.
Reilly added that if there are more eligible applicants than available funds, a waiting list might be established in anticipation of additional funding. However, he warned that this is not a permanent, ongoing program and is subject to federal expenditure deadlines set by the American Rescue Plan.
Separate from this program, Reilly’s office also provides the Emergency Home Rehabilitation Program, offering income-eligible homeowners funding for emergency repairs. This is not meant for general home rehabilitation, but for urgent issues that pose an immediate danger to the occupants’ health and well-being. Examples include heater breakdown in winter, lack of water, hazardous electrical conditions, leaking roof, lead-based paint hazards, accessibility issues, or other inspector-identified issues.
The Commission on Economic Opportunity also manages this emergency program on behalf of the county. Participants in this program must own and occupy the residence, meet income requirements, and not have any delinquent real estate taxes unless they are engaged in an approved payment plan. Properties in flood-prone areas require evidence of flood insurance.
This program is not applicable to homes in the county’s four cities — Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Pittston, and Nanticoke — as they are eligible for their own funding. Further information on this emergency repair program can be found by contacting Reilly’s office directly or visiting the office’s webpage on the Luzerne County website.