Al Día: Senator Nikil Saval has a bill to pay for home repairs across PA

On Monday, March 21, PA State Senator Nikil Saval launched his campaign for Pennsylvania’s Whole-Home Repairs Act (Senate Bill 1135), a bipartisan legislation that would establish a one-stop shop for home repairs and weatherization while creating new jobs.

Monday’s event kicked off a week of action, with similar events happening throughout the state. Pennsylvania has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation, and most Philly homes were built before 1950.

Climate change is severely impacting the Keystone State. By mid-century, annual precipitation in PA is expected to increase by 8%, with rainfall predicted to increase in magnitude and frequency. The state’s average annual temperature is also projected to rise, up to 6 °F in the same time period.

This increase in hotter and wetter weather will only accelerate the deterioration of Pennsylvania’s aging housing stock.

A 2021 University of Pennsylvania study reviewed the results of Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation’s Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP.)

Researchers found that when BSRP funded repairs for even just one house on a block, crime on that block was reduced by nearly 22%.

Introduced by Saval earlier this month, the Whole-Home Repairs Act would allocate up to $50,000 in funding for PA residents to fix their homes, offer administrative help to ensure that applicants receive the help they need, and support for training and pre-apprenticeship programs to build the workforce in this growing industry.

“The Whole-Home Repairs program has great potential and would work well with federal affordable housing investments I’ve voted for and continue to push for in Congress,” said Congressman Dwight Evans said at Monday’s meeting in South Philly.

At the event, Councilmembers Gilmore Richardson and Cherelle Parker (9th District) also announced their introduction of a resolution calling on the state’s General Assembly to adopt Senate Bill 1135.

Housing and energy activists have long stated that home repairs and weatherization are vital for homeowners to decrease utility burdens and make it possible to safely stay in their homes.

But this is not a reality for many Pennsylvanians. In Philadelphia, low-income households spend an average of 23% of their monthly income on utilities, and nearly three-quarters of low-and moderate-income homeowners who seek home repair loans are denied by lenders.

“In order to have healthy, resilient communities, we need the Whole-Home Repairs Act. This will reduce our carbon emissions and address housing affordability and environmental injustice. Thank you to Senator Saval for his leadership on this crucial bipartisan legislation,” said Councilmember Richardson, Chair of Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on the Environment.

Multiple community partners and residents across the state joined Saval on Monday, and enthusiastically supported the bill.

“This program will heal and restore low-income Pennsylvanians’ homes, improve the health and dignity of their lives, reduce their energy costs, and create jobs, all while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in our shared future,” said Reverend Allen Drew, East Coast Regional Organizer for the Climate Witness Project.

“It will be especially helpful for residents of the Hunting Park community where I work because my neighbors are dealing with particularly high rates of home disrepair and energy burden,” Reverend Drew said.

Based on an existing program in Philadelphia, Built to Last, the Whole-Home Repairs Act can fill in the gaps where other housing assistance programs have fallen short.

“We can fight housing scarcity, community displacement and instability, and the deterioration of our homes all at once by passing the Whole-Home Repairs Act. We can make a historic investment in our communities,” said Senator Saval.