Pa.’s Casey, Fetterman announce $12.1M for affordable housing | Five for the Weekend

‘Housing is a human right,’ U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., said

By: - May 6, 2023 6:30 am

(Getty Images)

Amid high mortgage rates and a crisis of homelessness, more than $12 million in federal aid is headed to Pennsylvania to underwrite the acquisition, development, and construction of affordable housing to aid low-income and unhoused Pennsylvanians.

The money, provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Trust Fund, also will assist qualifying families with relocation, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, both Democrats, said in a Friday statement.

“Housing is not merely a roof over your head. It’s a vital piece of the foundation that builds strong families and thriving communities,” Casey said.

HUD’s Housing Trust Fund gives grants to states to “produce and preserve affordable housing for extremely low- and very low-income households,” and the money can be used to pay for the the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities,” the lawmakers said in their statement.

Statewide, 430,703, or 28%, renter households are considered extremely low income, according to data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The state has a shortage of 267,074 rental units that are affordable and available for extremely low-income renters, the same data shows.

Housing Chart
(Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition).

A four-person household with an income of $26,500 is considered extremely low income, according to the coalition’s data. Those households would need to earn $43,463 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at HUD’s Fair Market Rent.

“Housing is a human right. This $12 million dollar investment from HUD will help create and preserve affordable housing in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, which covers housing issues, I’ll always fight to make sure every Pennsylvanian has access to safe and affordable housing.”

As always, your top five most-read stories of the week start below.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro discusses his plan to expand Pennsylvania’s property tax/rent rebate program for seniors and Pennsylvanians with disabilities in Erie on Thursday, May 4, 2023 (Commonwealth Media Service photo).

1. Shapiro touts proposed expansion to property tax, rent rebate program for seniors, Pennsylvanians with disabilities

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro visited Erie on Thursday to tout his plan to expand Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program for seniors and Pennsylvanians with disabilities in the commonwealth’s proposed 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

Shapiro, speaking from the Erie West Senior Center, noted that the rebate program has not been updated in more than a decade, despite rising inflation, and called his proposal “common sense.”

Under Shapiro’s proposed budget, the maximum rebate for individuals 65 or older would increase from $650 to $1,000. The proposal also lifts the income cap for renters and homeowners to $45,000 per year, and ties the income cap to the cost of living.

“This program is a lifeline for so many Pennsylvanians – putting money back in renters’ and homeowners’ pockets and helping them stay in their homes every single year,” Shapiro said. “While Pennsylvanians have struggled with rising costs, it’s been 17 years since this critical program has been updated – it’s finally time to provide more relief.”

The Pennsylvania Seal in the state House majority caucus room. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)

2. Pennsylvania House passes eight bipartisan bills in productive return to session

Pennsylvania House lawmakers passed eight bipartisan bills, including four with unanimous approval, in the lower chamber’s return to session this week after a nearly two-month hiatus.

With a narrow one-vote majority for the first time in more than a decade, House committees also cued up a blizzard of bills on Democratic policy priorities, such as protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ people and a suite of gun safety measures.

While some of those are unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled state Senate, the House’s work this week included bills with broad appeal on both sides of the aisle.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MARYLAND – SEPTEMBER 08: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) summer meeting at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center September 8, 2022 in National Harbor, Maryland. The president, ahead of the November midterm elections, sharpened his attack against Republicans, calling former President Trump and his MAGA supporters a threat to democracy. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

3. Democrats don’t want Biden. But they probably can’t win without him | John L. Micek

Surprising exactly no one, President Joe Biden announced his re-election bid earlier this week, setting up a likely 2024 rematch with former President Donald Trump in a campaign that will …

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Sorry. My head hit my keyboard. I dozed off from the utter predictability of it all.

Apparently, I’m not alone. While Biden is well-positioned to win a second term, Democratic voters, far from relishing a campaign that will pit one aged pol against another, are looking for an alternative – any alternative – to Scranton Joe.

And the alternative is … Go ahead. I’m waiting.

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(Getty Images)

4. Credit bureau CEOs face tough questions at Senate hearing; Democrats push to remove medical debt

The heads of the three major credit reporting bureaus faced tough questions from a U.S. Senate panel this week on whether their practices are transparent and fair to consumers , even as Democrats pressed the CEOs to remove medical debt from the reports.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said all medical debt should be removed from credit reports. Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian announced on April 11 that all medical debt below $500 was removed from credit reports, but Brown said that move is not enough.

“Medical debt does not correlate with credit risk – it correlates with illness,” Brown said during the Thursday session. “No one should have their financial future destroyed because of an emergency, or a sick family member. … If you have $1,000 in medical debt, you’re no less credit-worthy than someone with $500. It stems from the same problem – someone in your family or you got sick.”

Brown asked the CEOs to commit at that moment to removing all medical debt, but all dodged the request.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a news conference after the passage of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in the Pennsylvania House on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (Capital Star photo by Peter Hall)

5. Fairness Act protections for LGBTQ+ people clears Pa. House with bipartisan support

In a historic bipartisan vote on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed an extension of the state’s anti-discrimination law to protect LGBTQ+ people 22 years after the legislation was first introduced.

Despite strong and vocal opposition from a number of Republicans, two GOP lawmakers, Reps. Aaron Kaufer and Alec Ryncavage, both of Luzerne County, voted in favor of the measure.

The Fairness Act passed with a 102-98 vote. One Democrat, Rep. Frank Burns, of Cambria County, voted in opposition.

“There are so many people across this commonwealth, who know exactly what it’s like to be treated unfairly simply because of who they are, and how they identify,” Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, who is one of the bill’s prime co-sponsors, said in an emotional news conference after the vote.

And that’s the week. See you all back here on Monday.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.

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