The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, is advancing its campaign to expand revenue for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE), the state’s housing trust fund. HB 792, which proposes a new funding source for PHARE, passed unanimously in the Pennsylvania House on June 2. The Housing Alliance is working to ensure that the Senate considers companion bill SB 566 in June, so that funds can be included in the coming fiscal year budget.
The new revenue stream is a dedicated source of revenue based on contributions from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax. HB 792 and SB 566 would dedicate 40% of the growth in revenue above the fiscal year 2014-15 transfer tax estimate to the trust fund, capping contributions from this source at $25 million per year.
“This proposal just makes sense,” said Liz Hersh, the Housing Alliance’s Executive Director. “The transfer taxes come from the real estate industry, and some of the revenue should go back into the housing market to help those who need it the most. We’re really optimistic that we’ll see this funding source established this session.”
PHARE was established in 2010 and received its first funding in 2012 with passage the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee. Now in its third year of funding, $26 million from PHARE has leveraged $191 million and assisted more than 2,900 families and individuals. Eligible activities include rental assistance, utility assistance, home purchase assistance, homeowner repairs, rental rehabilitation, new construction, and substantial rehabilitation of vacant properties for affordable homes. Thirty percent of the fund must benefit households with income at or less than 50% of the area median income. However, revenue from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee can only benefit counties with shale wells. Many of these counties have rising rents and falling vacancy rates due to the influx of out-of-state workers to drill the wells.
“PHARE has been an undisputed success,” said Ms. Hersh. “But housing need in the Commonwealth persists. PHARE helps address the need, we know that. It works, and to work even better, it needs more funding.”
The Housing Alliance launched a new website in late May to build support for the campaign. The site highlights PHARE’s successes and makes the case for a new source of revenue through the transfer tax. The website also provides resources advocates need to take action to support the campaign.
The new website is at www.homesnotblight.org.
For more information, contact Victoria Bourret at firstname.lastname@example.org.