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Put the "Fund" in Housing Trust Fund

April 7, 2014
HARRISBURG- Pennsylvania has a trust fund designed to provide money to help build and repair housing in local communities. But state Senator John Blake of Lackawanna County, who hosted a forum on affordable housing on Friday, says the trust fund doesn't have enough funds. 

Adequate and affordable housing is an issue touching every corner of Pennsylvania. Act 105 of 2010, the "Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program," created a way to fund housing repair and startups across Pennsylvania. The idea is that a Statewide Housing Trust Fund can put money back into communities to put carpenters, plumbers, electricians and masons to work improving older homes and building new housing. But Act 105 created a Housing Trust Fund that has no funding; it relies partly on money from the Marcellus shale impact fees collected from drillers. Senator Blake says there's not a lot of money in the fund, and most of it stays in the county where the impact fee is collected.

Senator Blake's legislation (Senate Bill 216) would create stable, ongoing funds for the Statewide Housing Trust Fund by allowing counties to charge slightly more for the recording of specific documents -- for example, documents setting easements, declaration of plans, and Rights of Way. In 2011, there were 813,371 of these types of documents recorded in Pennsylvania. Sen. Blake says a slight increase on these fees of no more than a few dollars could provide significant funding for the Trust Fund from a reliable source. The bill does NOT permit counties to increase fees for mortgages or deeds, and counties have to decide to opt-in to the program. Counties would keep 25% of the fees collected for local affordable housing projects. The remaining 75% would be directed to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) to meet debt service on a Statewide Housing Trust Fund bond issue, the proceeds of which would be distributed to affordable housing projects throughout the state, with preference given to counties that have opted in to participate in the Fund.

The bill is currently in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.

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