The Lead

Advocates call for passage of two Senate bills to increase affordable housing funding

By: - June 4, 2019 1:44 pm

Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania rally at the Capitol. (Photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Advocates gathered in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to call for the passage of two state Senate bills that would increase state funding for affordable housing.

One of the bills, sponsored by Sen. Tom Killion, R-Chester, would create a state program modeled after the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which matches dollar-for-dollar investments in the creation and preservation of affordable housing. The legislation would appropriate $10 million annually.

Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, said Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are worth “slightly less” since President Donald Trump’s tax plan lowered the corporate tax rate. Killion’s legislation, she said, is “a way to fill some of that gap.”

“We started this [bill] before that happened. That was not our primary motivation. Our primary motivation was creating another resource to be able to build more and preserve more [housing],” she said. “But because that happened, it does make this maybe even more necessary to fill that gap.”

The other bill, sponsored by Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, would expand the state’s housing trust fund by lifting the $25 million cap on funding from the realty tax transfer.

Shaun Bollig, planning supervisor for the Chester County Department of Community Development, said the county has more than $1.5 million in applications pending to the state housing trust fund, known formally as Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE).

Chester County has used trust fund money in the past to increase staff capacity at emergency shelters and pilot a program to provide case management services to people placed in permanent housing.

Chamberlain said the alliance is calling on lawmakers to pass both bills this month, so the funding can be built into the 2019-20 budget due June 30.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.