Pennsylvania’s Home-Repair Initiative Progresses

In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, homeowners with low to moderate incomes face a challenging wait of two to three years for government assistance in repairing their homes. This is due to limited funds and capacity within the existing program aimed at aiding struggling residents. Despite being one of the wealthiest counties in the state, the demand for housing assistance remains high, especially in the wake of Hurricane Ida‘s aftermath, contributing to a challenging period over the last three to five years.

To address this issue, Montgomery County officials are optimistic about a new source of funding through the Whole-Home Repairs Program, a state initiative designed to enhance home safety, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and energy efficiency. This program, bolstered by a $125 million allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and a budget surplus, represents the most substantial recent investment by state legislators to improve housing quality.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has announced that counties or designated organizations can start applying for funding from the Whole-Home Repairs Program from December 12. The state will review applications until January 31 in a rolling process.

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The program aims to provide financial support for home repairs and weatherization, specifically targeting low-income homeowners and small landlords. Homeowners with incomes up to 80% of the area median (around $76,000 for a household of three in the Philadelphia region) can access grants of up to $50,000. Small landlords offering affordable housing to tenants making 60% or below the area median income (approximately $57,000 for a household of three in Philadelphia) are eligible for loans of up to $50,000 per rental unit.

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Additionally, funds will be allocated to workforce development programs, offering opportunities for training and employment in construction-related jobs. This includes cash stipends for trainees, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.

Counties can apply for a share of over $120 million based on factors such as Census Bureau data on median income, housing stock age, and the number of households meeting specific income limits. Philadelphia, for instance, is eligible for an initial amount of $20.9 million, while Montgomery County can access $6.1 million.

The application process involves outlining how the funds will be utilized, and detailing planned expenditures for home repairs, technical assistance, and workforce development. Homeowners are expected to be able to request funds starting in the spring, to receive assistance for repairs and weatherization in the spring or summer, pending necessary administrative steps. The Department of Community and Economic Development has recently released guidelines for counties on applying to the program. Once funds are awarded, counties will need to implement plans, potentially involving the hiring of staff, and determine how to allocate funds within existing programs or create new ones.

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