LANCASTER, PA — On Friday, State Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) and State Representative Ismail Smith-Wade-El (D–Lancaster) joined Lancaster Stands Up, POWER Interfaith, CASA, and residents and community leaders in a united call for permanent funding for Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking Whole-Home Repairs Program.
Passed in July 2022 with an initial $125-million appropriation to create and launch the program, the Whole-Home Repairs Program establishes a one-stop shop in each county for critical home repairs and weatherization, while building out Pennsylvania’s workforce and creating new family-sustaining jobs in a growing field.
“My office has received more than 6,000 calls from residents who heard about the Whole-Home Repairs Program and who, for the first time, feel a sense of hope that their government will be an ally in providing them with the support they need to stay in their homes and in their communities,” said Saval. “The need for this program is every bit as huge as we anticipated—and that’s why we’re calling on the state’s General Assembly to secure permanent funding. Whole-Home Repairs deserves investment because Pennsylvanians deserve investment.”
After decades of disinvestment in Pennsylvania’s housing stock, the need is immense. Demand for the program has been overwhelming, even before applications have opened for residents, and is expected to quickly outpace the available funds. Results of a spring 2022 survey by Data for Progress and People’s Action showed that a quarter of Pennsylvania voters live in a home that needs a critical repair, and a third face high energy burdens, citing utility bills that are unaffordable.
“We talk about infrastructure, we talk about family, but none of that is meaningful unless we are providing for people the safe, quality homes that they deserve,” said Smith-Wade-El. “Homes are a universal need. Homes are something that we all take for granted until we don’t have them. It’s our duty as the legislators representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make sure that they exist for everybody.”
The Whole-Home Repairs Program was developed and passed with broad bipartisan support to address the shared struggles of rural, urban, and suburban counties to preserve their housing, stabilize their communities, and provide their residents with the means to stay safe and healthy in their homes.
“The Whole-Home Repairs Program allowed lawmakers to act on the fact that our Commonwealth’s housing stock is infrastructure,” said Pastor Dave Bushnell, with POWER Interfaith. “It’s not just bridges and roads, it’s the places where people live, and we need to invest in these homes to keep people safe, to keep them secure, and to keep them in neighborhoods that they have lived in for years. This program is a first step, and we need continued funding.”
Lancaster residents and community leaders added their voices in support of the program.
“It’s beyond time that all of us in Pennsylvania are able to get necessary repairs made to our homes, because nobody should have to live in a home that can harm them,” said Duncan Hopkins, an organizer with Lancaster Stands Up.
“I have seven children. With a lot of effort and sacrifice, my wife and I bought a house to give our children stability. The house we bought had deteriorated, and we haven’t been able to make repairs. My son has lead in his blood,” said Jose Velez, with CASA. “My neighbors in my community are experiencing the same deficiencies in their homes. It would be a great hope for us to have more money for the Whole-Home Repairs Program, so that we can make changes to our homes and give our children and families a better quality of life.”
In conjunction with the Week of Action, more than five dozen organizations released an open letter to the state’s General Assembly to call on representatives to allocate $300 million for the Whole-Home Repairs Program this year and to make funding for the program permanent.
“This is how we can begin to meet the scale of the crisis,” the organizations state. “The Whole-Home Repairs Program is a housing security initiative, an energy and climate resiliency initiative, an anti-blight initiative, a jobs initiative, and a community safety initiative. It will enable children to grow up in homes free from lead and mold, families to build generational wealth and wellness, and seniors to remain in their homes as they experience changes in their abilities.”
The full text of the open letter and the list of signatories is available here.
The full video recording of today’s event is available here.
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