Philadelphia, PA − May 24, 2022 − Today, Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia County) held a rally attended by more than 200 housing and energy advocates, community leaders, Pennsylvania residents, and Democrat and Republican legislators from the General Assembly to call for the passage of his bipartisan Whole-Home Repairs Act (Senate Bill 1135).
Today’s rally coincided with the release of new research from Data for Progress and People’s Action showing a high number of Pennsylvania residents are struggling to afford home repairs and pay their utility bills.
“Pennsylvania has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation, and Pennsylvanians in every county are living in aging, unsafe homes because they can’t afford critical repairs,” said Senator Saval, who serves as Democratic Chair of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. “Passing the Whole-Home Repairs Act would fix this! When a person is given what they need to stay safe and healthy in their home, that’s an immediate and permanent benefit. Their families are protected from health hazards. Their utility bills go down for good. Their communities are stabilized.”
“As Chairman of the bicameral, bipartisan Statewide Blight Task Force, I know firsthand that blight can be a major problem for both urban and rural communities. I’m hopeful this bill will be part of the solution,” said Senator David Argall (R–Berks and Schuylkill Counties).
The Whole-Home Repairs Act is a sweeping bipartisan bill that establishes a one-stop shop for home repairs and weatherization while building a local workforce and creating new, family-sustaining jobs in a growing field.
Findings from the Data for Progress and People’s Action study indicate that one out of every four Pennsylvania voters lives in a home that needs a critical repair; one out of every three Pennsylvania voters describes their utility bills as “unaffordable”; and if confronted with the need to make a critical repair, nearly half of Pennsylvania homeowners reported that they would struggle to pay for it.
“A safe and secure home is the fundamental unit of all civic life,” said Aaron Zappia of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. “Before we can meaningfully address education, healthcare, workforce development, or public safety, we must first address this root problem of securing and preserving homes. When families live in fear of displacement—unable to afford basic repairs—the entire community suffers, our state suffers. The Whole-Home Repairs Act can allow people the bandwidth to focus on their loved ones, their community, and their own prosperity.”
“More than a third of the Commonwealth’s low-income residents who apply are turned away from critical state and utility funded energy efficiency programs due to health and safety issues needing addressed at their home before efficiency work can be done,” said Joe Nunley of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance. “The Whole-Home Repairs Act enables the coordination of resources necessary to allow those folks to fix the issues and receive the resources needed to lower their utility bills and in turn lower their energy burden.”
Companion legislation to Senator Saval’s bill is being introduced in the Pennsylvania House (House Bill 2617) by Representative Sara Innamorato (D–Allegheny County) and Representative Rick Krajewski (D–Philadelphia County), where it has also garnered bipartisan support.
“Even before the pandemic, predatory real estate speculation targeted low-income and aging Pennsylvanians, forcing them prematurely out of their homes. Simultaneously, lack of modernized, affordable rental units pushes families into deteriorating and unsafe housing, negatively impacting their health and well-being,” said Representative Innamorato. “Investing in repairing and adapting our existing housing supply would help alleviate some of the pressures of the housing crisis and make safe, affordable housing available to families, seniors, and peoples with disabilities across the commonwealth, regardless of their economic status. Because there is nothing more important than having a safe and healthy home.”
“In my district there is a high proportion of low-income homeowners. The Whole-Home Repairs Act is important because it will keep families in their generational homes and protect Black wealth,” said Representative Krajewski.
More than 200 people from cities and towns across the Commonwealth traveled to Harrisburg to participate in the rally.
“The Whole-Home Repairs legislation is crucial to me being able to get needed repairs done that will allow me to stay in my home safely and for the rest of my life,” said Carol Gonzalez, a member of Pennsylvania Stands Up. “I live in Allentown in a home that is 117 years old. It’s frustrating that the programs we have now often leave out people like me who are now retired and have worked and saved our whole lives but still can’t afford to maintain our homes. We need to pass this Whole-Home Repairs bill so that other people like me don’t have to live in fear of having to leave our homes due to unsafe conditions.”
“The Northeast is projected to experience increased precipitation, more frequent and intense storms, higher average temperatures and this exacerbates structural damage to our homes,” said Angelo Ortega, a member of Make the Road Pennsylvania. “My family cannot afford to make the necessary repairs. We are getting sick as we are getting exposed to mildew and mold. We need Whole-Home Repairs Act resources in order to maintain and live in secure and healthy homes.”
The call to pass the Whole-Home Repairs Act comes as Pennsylvania anticipates a revenue surplus of nearly $10 billion. Legislators, advocates, and Pennsylvania residents are calling for part of this surplus to be used to fund the Whole-Home Repairs Act. Polling from Data for Progress and People’s Action show that more than three-quarters of Pennsylvania voters support the bill’s passage.
“As we work to create more affordable housing units, the Whole-Home Repairs program is a vital tool in addressing the housing crisis facing our communities,” said Senator Vincent Hughes (D–Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties), who serves as Democratic Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I am proud to support the efforts of Senator Saval and the comprehensive proposal he has put together. This bill will go a long way to ensuring our seniors can remain safely in their homes and low- and moderate-income families can make necessary repairs without having to make gut-wrenching decisions about their household finances.”
“This legislation is the first of its kind that will save families and neighborhoods and create jobs,” said Senator Art Haywood (D–Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties), who serves as Democratic Chair of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.
“If we pass this legislation, our kids will no longer be exposed to health hazards like mold and lead. Our utility bills will be more affordable so everyone can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We can reduce our energy use and our homes’ impact on our climate,” said Mary Collier of Sunrise Movement Pennsylvania. “By keeping our neighbors housed, we can stabilize our communities, build generational wealth, and create the right conditions for long-term health.”
“The Whole-Home Repairs Act makes generational home ownership possible, as a part of the American Dream for many who have dismissed it from reality as they understand it,” said Reverend TaWanda Stallworth of POWER Interfaith.
The full video of the rally is available here.
Results from the study by Data for Progress and People’s Action are available here.