The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) recently awarded $90,000 in grants for housing improvement efforts in Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties, according to Senator Elder Vogel.
A grant of $25,000 was awarded for Beaver County’s Rental and Utility Assistance Program. Butler County’s Supportive Housing Opportunity Program received a $25,000 grant and $40,000 was awarded to the Lawrence County’s Housing and Rehabilitation and Blight Removal Program.
The grants are funded under the Marcellus Shale impact fee legislation, Act 13 of 2012, which allocates certain amounts from the impact fee into PHFA’s Housing Trust Fund (PHARE) to address the need for affordable housing in counties where producing nonconventional gas wells are located.
“The PHARE program provides an excellent way to invest the Marcellus Shale impact fee revenue to improve the availability of affordable housing in areas where drilling is taking place,” Senator Vogel said. “These grants will help a number of at-risk individuals and families in Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties secure and keep housing. This state investment will assist the counties’ efforts to increase and improve their affordable housing opportunities even as they enjoy the economic benefits provided to our region by the shale industry.”
Beaver County’s Rental and Utility Assistance program will use the grant to address chronic homelessness and homeless prevention by providing rental and utility assistance to eligible households. It is anticipated that 25 households will be assisted at an average of $950 per household.
Butler County’s Supportive Housing Opportunity Program will use the funds to educate struggling renters on the responsibilities of budgeting, finances and accountability. Completion of the program results in direct financial assistance, in the form of a match up to $500 for savings acquired while in the program.
Lawrence County’s Housing Rehabilitation and Blight Removal Program will use the money to assist owner-occupants with rehabilitation efforts on their homes as well as for the acquisition and demolition of vacant and blighted structures. The rehab funds will be used in conjunction with other county housing programs (CDBG, LEAD and Weatherization).
Currently PHARE’s only revenue is from Act 13 impact fees and those monies may only be spent in Marcellus Shale counties. The Senate, on June 30, approved legislation introduced by Senator Vogel that would increase state support and expand the scope of the program. Senate Bill 566 would dedicate a portion of funds raised from the state’s Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) for PHARE projects across the state. Senator Vogel’s legislation would not increase the RTT rate, but only change how revenues generated by the existing rate could be used.
SB 566 is currently before the House Urban Affairs Committee for consideration.
“The economic case for strengthening PHARE – which has already proven its power to help alleviate blight, reduce homelessness, create jobs and drive economic activity – is compelling. But the broader good that we have the opportunity to offer vulnerable residents, families and communities, is even more profound,” Senator Vogel said. “Across Pennsylvania, we see blighted and abandoned properties overwhelming the housing market. PHARE funds can be used to remediate blight as well as develop homes within reach of low wage workers and people on fixed income.”
CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-3076