Housing Platform

The housing crisis has reached historic levels, hurting Pennsylvanians of income levels, races, regions, and ages. Today a minimum wage worker in our Commonwealth would have to work 106 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. The cost of living crisis has only gotten worse over the last few years, and at the same time the climate crisis has hit us right here in Philadelphia. Historic floods, tornadoes, and heat are making it even harder to stay housed. That’s why we need to prioritize these three policies now:

1. Increase the Supply of Permanently Affordable Housing. Pennsylvania needs a huge investment in affordable housing to make sure all residents, including new immigrants, can live in safe, comfortable homes. The Commonwealth should create a state-level Social Housing Development Authority (SHDA) in order to retain existing affordable units and create new ones at scale, while reducing artificial constrictions, such as through exclusionary zoning, on the overall supply of housing.

2. Expand the Whole-Home Repairs Program. The Whole-Home Repairs program was oversubscribed in its first year of operation. Pennsylvania can leverage federal funding from the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to increase funding for the program, as well as increase its own funding and resourcing. 

3. Protect Tenants from Egregious Rent Hikes and Unfair Evictions. Rent keeps rising across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania needs to pass a cap on the amount a landlord can raise the rent annually to end price gouging in the rental market statewide, as well as adopt an emergency rental assistance and fund tenants’ right to counsel.

1. Increase the Supply of Permanently Affordable Housing

From new immigrants looking to make Philadelphia home to families that have lived here for generations, we all deserve a safe and affordable place to live. Currently, a million and a half Pennsylvanians pay more than 30% of their income on housing, and the number of affordable units in the Commonwealth keeps shrinking. As our remaining stock of public and subsidized housing crumbles or gets demolished, the population in need of these units is growing. We need a generational investment in housing to not only reverse these trends, but to fully address the unmet affordability needs. 

In other parts of the country, state and local governments are exploring how to reinvigorate the public capacity for housing development to deliver permanently affordable social housing for people across income levels. It’s time for Pennsylvania to innovate as well. That’s why we need to pursue the following policies.

2. Expand the Whole-Home Repairs Program

It’s time to build upon the successful Whole-Home Repairs Program by leveraging federal dollars to fully fund and expand program implementation. The Whole-Home Repairs program —  which passed in 2022 with bipartisan support — is hugely popular. Nearly every county applied for the first round of funding, and in Philadelphia, the demand for the program exceeds the money available. As our climate crisis worsens and the cost of maintaining our homes gets higher, it is clear that comprehensive home repair programs are more urgent than ever. In the next two years, the Commonwealth can leverage funding from the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — including funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, Home Electrification and Appliance Rebates Program, and the Elective Pay program — to fully fund the Whole-Home Repair program so all Pennsylvanians can benefit. Furthermore, the General Assembly can increase funding levels for this program and work to ensure implementation is working as effectively as possible.

3. Protect Tenants from Egregious Rent Hikes and Unfair Evictions

Rents have increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, and in many cases, landlords have used inflation as an excuse to raise rents beyond the pace of inflation. Unaffordable rents are affecting people in every corner of the state. In Philadelphia, over 60% of young renters are paying more than a third of their income on rent, and Black and Brown renters are disproportionately rent burdened. Statewide, a minimum wage worker would need to work for 106 hours a week to be able to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. 

Pennsylvania must act to stabilize rental prices and mitigate the eviction crisis. This includes adopting the following policies: 

Please stay tuned in the coming weeks for more of Nikil’s plans, which’ll address major issues impacting our communities.

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