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Democrats urge state lawmakers to put new funding into Whole Home Repairs program

State Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) speaks at a press conference at the home of Mo and Kelly Scatena in Mt. Oliver Friday Feb. 2, 2024 (Credit: Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 2, 2024

PITTSBURGH — Kelly Scatena had a serious dilemma: The house she’s owned in Mt. Oliver for 23 years had a seriously leaky roof and a crumbling foundation, and she and her family weren’t in a position to fix either one. 

“Four or five years ago we had our first roof leak and we got a patch. But then a year or two later it started leaking again,” Scatena said. The roofer told them the problem was beyond patching and the chimney would have to be taken off and the whole roof redone. “And then a couple months later, a huge chunk of cement cracked off of my foundation, about four feet by three feet. I never saw anything like that before. It felt like my house was dying from cancer.”

Scatena was able to make the repairs to her home through Pennsylvania’s Whole Home Repairs program, a home improvement initiative that offers funding of up to $50,000 in grants and forgivable loans for eligible homeowners. Passed by the Legislature on a bipartisan basis in 2022, the $120 million program was funded with American Rescue Plan funds, and administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. 

An additional $50 million for the program that was included in the state budget approved last August was not included in the final code bills passed in December. 

Ahead of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget address next week, elected officials and advocacy groups are urging that the Whole Home Repairs program be fully funded.

“Investing in our existing housing supply is a critical tool in an increasingly unaffordable housing market,” said Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, who co-sponsored the Whole Home Repairs legislation when she was in the state House. “Today we are calling on the governor and the General Assembly to put new funding into this very successful and wildly popular program.”

State Sen. Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) first proposed the bill in the state Senate. He joined Innamorato, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-12th District) and other local elected officials for a press conference on Scatena’s porch Friday. 

“We need to make this a priority for Pennsylvania. The proceeds we’re using today came from the federal government,” Saval said. “Now we need to take a step here in Pennsylvania to make sure that we put our state dollars and establish this as a high priority with state resources to ensure that a program like this continues.”

Lee pledged to fight at the federal level for Whole Home Repair funding, adding that 56% of U.S. adults lack the emergency funds to handle a $1,000 unexpected expense, including fixing a leaky roof, the most common issue in the region.

“Growing up in North Braddock, I know personally what can happen when families can’t come up with that money,” she said. “Instead of staying in the neighborhood and building generational wealth with a home, they are forced out.” 

In Allegheny County 96% of applicants for the program were deferred because of a lack of sufficient funding for the program, Innamorato said.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.