PITTSBURGH − February 3, 2024 – The Senate Democratic Policy Committee traveled to Pittsburgh yesterday to host two events to highlight the successes of Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking Whole-Home Repairs Program. Less than a year after the distribution of funds, the Whole-Home Repairs program has already facilitated the repairs of hundreds of homes and changed thousands of lives, including many in Allegheny County.
“The Whole-Home Repairs Program is one of the best examples of how the government can directly support our constituents and meet one of their most important needs – safe housing,” state Senator Katie Muth (D-Chester/Montgomery/Berks), Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, said. “Our events in Pittsburgh really highlighted not only the success of the program and the positive impact it has made in people’s lives – but also the unmet needs across the Commonwealth and the requests for funding that were not approved because of the lack of adequate, yearly funding for Whole-Home Repairs.”
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing at the Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh on Friday to highlight the successes of the Whole-Home Repairs program across the Commonwealth.
“Through the Whole-Home Repairs Program, Pennsylvania is tackling many of the root causes of community instability by keeping people in their homes and keeping these homes safe and healthy,” Senator Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) said. “The need for this program is every bit as enormous as we anticipated. Whole-Home Repairs deserves continued investment because Pennsylvanians deserve investment.”
The Whole-Home Repairs Program was originally introduced in March 2022 as Senate Bill 1135 by Senator Saval and was signed into law in July 2022 as part of the state budget package with a $125-million appropriation to launch the statewide program. An additional $50 million was originally appropriated in the 2023-24 state budget, but the necessary implementation language was not included in the final code bills that passed the legislature in December 2023.
“There has been so much attention on the unhoused population of Allegheny County in the last few years, and rightfully so. But as we work to increase shelter capacity, bridge and transitional housing, we cannot lose site of the importance of keeping people in the homes they already have,” Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato said. “We have to recognize that just because they’re housed today, if their home requires repairs that they can’t afford and becomes unlivable, those families may be unhoused tomorrow. That is what the Whole Home Repairs bill can do for families – keep them safe and housed.”
Demand for the program has far outpaced available resources. In Allegheny County, 96% of eligible applicants have been deferred because of a lack of sufficient funds. With similar reports from counties across Pennsylvania, additional state funding is urgently needed to continue the program.
“It is no secret that Pennsylvania is home to some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. Being a realtor, I understand that not fixing one main element of a house can escalate quickly and have a negative trickledown effect on other areas of a home to the point of making it even uninhabitable,” Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) said. “The assistance provided for critical repairs on a house through the Whole Home Repairs Program can mean the difference between someone staying in their house and having to find somewhere else to live. As we have witnessed, the demand for the program has been staggering which illustrates the need to continue funding the Whole Home Repairs Program.”
The program provides funding for county-wide agencies to address habitability and safety concerns, provide measures to improve energy or water efficiency and make units accessible for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the program provides funding to the counties for construction-related workforce development.
“The Whole Home Repairs Program allows families to safely remain in their homes, prevents blighted properties, puts people to work, and keeps communities together. This one program and its direct investment in people brings a return on investment for the entire community far beyond the lifechanging effects for individual families,” Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) added. “I support ongoing and expanded funding for Year Two and beyond of the Whole Home Repairs Program so that we can bring these impacts to more communities across Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.”
At the hearing, Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) noted that during his tenure as Mayor of McKeesport, they were forced to demolish over 5,000 homes – many of which could have been salvaged if a program like Whole-Home Repairs existed.
“The Whole-Home Repairs Program is a necessary program to help older communities reinvent themselves and maintain their communities,” Senator Brewster added.
Prior to the public hearing, members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and several other elected officials held a press conference outside of the home of Kelly Scatena, an Allegheny County homeowner whose house was repaired through the Whole-Home Repairs Program.
“Home should be the place where you feel safe, and now I have that for my family. We can relax in our house and not worry that it’s going to fall down,” Kelly Scatena said. “Now that I’ve gotten these repairs, I feel like I have a solid foot on the ground. I feel like I’m actually a homeowner because I’m here for good. This has been life changing.”
The Whole-Home Repairs Program in Allegheny County is run by Action Housing, a nonprofit housing agency based in Pittsburgh. Action Housing received over 4,300 unique, eligible applications for the Whole Home Repairs program since it began, but because of the lack of funding, they were only able to work on 200 total homes.
“The Allegheny County Whole-Home Repairs Program has been a success for families and builders throughout the region, but the limited funding means that we’ve only been able to serve about 4% of eligible applicants,” Dan Sullivan, Housing Stabilization Program Manager, Action Housing, said. “Without continued funding, thousands of residents will continue to live in homes that are unsafe for them and their families. We can change the status quo, but we need the investment to do it.”
At the press conference, U.S. Representative Summer Lee indicated that she is working in Congress to secure federal investments to support Whole-Home Repairs across the country.
“Just in my small neighborhood of North Braddock, we have over 400 blighted properties. Each time I walk by, I think of the people who – for lack of a few thousand dollars – lost their community. I think of the thousands in this region who are desperately in search of affordable housing. I think of how much generational wealth families have lost, and how that has impacted them in so many other ways,” Congresswoman Lee added. “Whole-Home Repairs could have helped them. The story is not just about the 200 families Action Housing could help, but also the 6,000 eligible applicants they could not help because the program ran out of federal funding. That’s why I’m in DC fighting to secure massive federal investment to continue Whole-Home Repairs in Pennsylvania and implement it nationwide.”
The state legislators are hopeful that funding for the Whole-Home Repairs program is highlighted in the Governor’s Budget Address set for Tuesday afternoon in Harrisburg.
“I am proud that this program has already generated positive outcomes for neighbors in my district and across the state. However, we have a lot more we can do to ensure that our homes are safe and sustainable,” state Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) said. “That is why I will continue to strongly advocate for Whole-Home Repairs funding in Harrisburg. Our communities deserve it.”
Additional participants in the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing included Rick Vilello, Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development; Justin Livingston, Owner and Project Manager, JL Homebuilders; LuAnn Zak, Assistant Director, Indiana County Office of Planning and Development; and Chuck Weiss, Associate Executive Director for Housing, Community Action Lehigh Valley.
“I have been so proud to join my colleagues in the PA Senate Democratic Caucus as we fight for a safe, accessible, and affordable home for every Pennsylvanian,” Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said. “The Whole-Home Repairs program has been integral to delivering on this crucial goal, and I look forward to continuing to support our working families by ensuring their homes keep them warm, dry, and comfortable.”
All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy. A recording of the press conference is available to watch on-demand at www.SenatorMuth.com/Video.
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Panel 1: Allegheny County Analysis
- Dan Sullivan – Housing Stabilization Program Manager, Action Housing
- Kelly Scatena – Homeowner
- Justin Livingston – Owner & Project Manager, JL Homebuilders
Panel 2: Statewide Analysis
- Rick Vilello – Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
- LuAnn Zak – Assistant Director, Indiana County Office of Planning & Development
- Chuck Weiss – Associate Executive Director for Housing, Community Action Lehigh Valley