“Being homeless is being without – without shelter, without resources, without support, without recognition, without power to influence society. Simple survival becomes a fulltime, humiliating task. People who are homeless often lose their sense of self-worth and their hope for the future. They feel cut-off and alienated from the rest of society.”

ELCA social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” .

The lack of affordable housing is a major driver of poverty and hunger in Pennsylvania. It is also a barrier to education and health. The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) – commonly known as the State Housing Trust Fund is an important way to combat homelessness and ensure the dignity and well-being of citizens through creating new avenues for safe and affordable housing. Established in 2010 with help from LAMPa advocates, the Housing Trust Fund has been funded through a fee on Marcellus Shale drilling implemented in 2012 and available only in 37 counties where that drilling occurs.

What is the State Housing Trust Fund?
Administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Pa. Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) Fund was created in 2010 to attack neighborhood blight, allow more elderly to stay in their homes and help low-income Pennsylvanians avoid becoming homeless. Since 2012, when it was first funded by the Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee, it has helped more than 2,900 families and individuals through rental assistance, utility assistance, purchase assistance, homeowner repairs, rental rehabs, new construction, or substantial rehab of vacant properties for affordable homes. Another 287 sites have been acquired and/or demolished for future homes within reach of people with low incomes. The $26.2 million invested from the fund is expected to leverage another $191 million.

Help and Hope for Homeless, Seniors and Blighted Communities:
As Lutherans, we believe that homelessness concerns people, human beings created in God’s image for a life of dignity. According to the ELCA’s social message on homelessness, “Being homeless is being without — without shelter, without resources, without support, without recognition, without power to influence society. Simple survival becomes a fulltime, humiliating task. People who are homeless often lose their sense of self-worth and their hope for the future. They feel cut-off and alienated from the rest of society.” An estimated 270,000 Pennsylvanians are homeless. Approximately 20,000 school-age children experienced the insecurity of homelessness last year in our state. Seniors who could otherwise remain in their homes are often forced into expensive nursing home care for lack of funds to modify their houses.

Expanding PHARE to the rest of the state by setting aside $25 million in growth of the realty transfer tax is a way to fight homelessness, battle blight and create jobs. Under the proposed legislation, as the housing market recovers, the fund would receive 40 percent of the growth in revenue from the Realty Transfer Tax to expand the program statewide, capped at $25 million per year. The expansion of the program has the potential to spur a $400 million economic impact, adding up to 3,000 jobs and an additional $20 million in state tax revenues while also increasing the supply of homes within reach of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.

  • HOMELESSNESS — It can make money available for rental assistance and make more affordable homes available.
  • BLIGHT — Its funds can be used for demolition, vacant property rehab, rental rehab, and owner-occupied repairs.
  • ECONOMIC RECOVERY – New PHARE-funded projects would create up to 500 jobs – in addition to providing homes within reach of low wage workers and people on fixed incomes.

What can an expanded PHARE do?  A $25 million investment could produce:

Rental assistance for 2,500 households @ $10,000 a year per household, to prevent homelessness; or
1700 rental homes rehabbed @ $15,000 each, increasing the supply of homes within reach of low-income Pennsylvanians; or
1,700 home modifications @ $15,000 each, to prevent nursing home placements at $45,000 per individual per year; or
2,500 blighted properties demolished @ $10,000 each, to spur reinvestment in our communities.
About this proposal:
Dedicates up to $25 million of the increase in revenue from the Realty Transfer Tax as the housing market improves and reinvests it back into the housing market.
No tax increase.
No new fee.
No money taken from current funding levels.

What is LAMPa asking Advocates to do?
LAMPa is encouraging advocates to contact their state lawmakers, requesting that they support House Bill 792 and Senate Bill 566 and contact their leadership to include the language in this year’s budget so that this year’s revenue can be considered as baseline to calculate next year’s funding. You can find your lawmakers here.

  • Call or write to thank the bills’ sponsors main, Rep. Tom Killion and Sen. Elder Vogel. • Call or write to thank the bills’ other sponsors. See Senate sponsors. Click here to see House sponsors.
  • Share stories of people in your ministries who struggle with the need for shelter or how your communities have been affected by blight. Describe the difference this funding could make in the lives of those you know.
  • Invite lawmakers to see your work with those who are lacking safe, adequate shelter.
  • Conduct a letter-writing campaign in your congregation or ministry to emphasize your community’s dedication to ensuring that safe, affordable homes are within reach for every Pennsylvanian.

LAMPa works in coordination with the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania to address key housing issues, including increasing the stock of safe and affordable housing.

For more information on housing in Pennsylvania, click on the links below to access important and up to date counties’ housing information.