Currently, a million and a half Pennsylvanians pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing and the number of affordable units in the Commonwealth is shrinking. Our remaining stock of public and subsidized housing is crumbling or has been demolished, as the population in need of these units is growing.
We need a Homes Guarantee.
A generational investment in housing and renters’ rights is necessary to not only reverse these trends, but to address unmet affordability needs. The magnitude and breadth of the current crisis requires a multi-dimensional approach.
I pledge to reject any developer and real estate contributions that my campaign may be offered, and to return any developer and real estate money that I have already taken.
-Nikil Saval, Homes Guarantee Candidate
Build, preserve, or convert 1,000,000 units of affordable housing
Using the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), LIHTC, New Markets Tax Credits, and other funding streams to build model no-carbon, green social housing complexes with ground-floor retail, services, and community spaces managed by public housing authorities, limited equity co-operatives, or community land trusts. This housing should be mixed income, weighted to low- and very low-incomes, and develop a new model of social housing that could be expanded with federal funding. We should channel funding from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (PHFA) into grant programs that reward union labor, and apprenticeship programs to bring low-income workers into building trades union pipelines.
Giving municipalities and housing authorities the explicit authority and financial resources to acquire units and dispose them as rent-restricted or limited-equity properties to community land trusts, while helping finance green upgrades to eliminate fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency. With an estimated 25,000 units of vacant properties in Philadelphia alone, this could create permanently affordable homes for 125,000 people. This would entail retrofitting homes to highest standards of energy efficiency and replacing all fossil fuels (heating oil, natural gas) with the most modern electrical systems.
Preventing existing affordable housing from being demolished or converted to market rate and upgrading that housing to emit no carbon and save on energy costs. Additional funding streams should be established to subsidize operations and maintenance of affordable units, green upgrades to electrify units with the most modern appliances and building systems, paired with regulations that make it more difficult to terminate affordability restrictions will enhance neighborhood stability and reduce the burden on new construction to meet Pennsylvania’s affordable housing needs.
Extending grants and zero-interest loans to landlords to make repairs and green retrofits that cut carbon pollution and increase home comfort and safety in exchange for agreeing to a deed-restricted affordability period. Many market-rate affordable units are abandoned due to an inability of landlords to make repairs to roofs, plumbing, mechanicals, and other basic systems. These grants and loans could be another efficient means of preserving privately-operated affordable housing units throughout the Commonwealth.
Increase housing quality and expand renters’ rights
Renters and low-income homeowners are the most vulnerable populations in the housing market, and we advocate for policies that increase housing stability for these groups.
Establishing statewide rent stabilization. Rent stabilization rates should not exceed cost of living increases in municipalities and rent increases between unit turnover should be minimized. Cities that do not want to implement rent stabilization policies would be required to pay a percentage of their multi-family unit property tax revenues into the State Housing Trust Fund.
Increasing the number of house inspectors at the municipal level, particularly for cities with an aging housing stock and increasingly rent-burdened populations.
Increased funding for home repairs, prioritizing subsidizing repairs for low-income, elderly, disabled, and family households in areas where disinvestment is greatest and household income is below municipal-wide averages.
Mandating funding and legislation for tenants to have a right-to-counsel in eviction cases, with local 311 and statewide agencies affirmatively advertising and connecting tenants in need to these resources (replicating Philadelphia’s Housing Resource Center initiative)
Changing laws around zoning, taxation, corporate giveaways, and land use to enable affordable housing construction
Pennsylvania’s taxation and land use system hamstrings city taxation powers, gives money away to corporations, and enables corrupt land dealings on a city level. It means that there is no differentiated tax policy, and we can’t tax Comcast higher than the average rowhome owner. However, cities can abate property taxes for specific property types (such as new construction in disinvested neighborhoods) or exempt certain classes from full property tax payments (such as the low-income, disabled, elderly).
An end to exclusionary zoning. While it is critical to build and preserve affordable housing in the places with the greatest need and in the places experiencing the greatest neighborhood change, it is also important to ensure that higher income urban and suburban areas, as well as commercial corridors and areas near transit, are building their fair share. At least 10% of all units in each municipality must be deemed affordable; in cases where a municipality fails to meet this standard, developers should be permitted to significantly exceed local density limits, provided that at least 25% of the new units are affordable.
Ending no-strings attached giveaways. Despite Philadelphia’s rapid transition into the 21st century economy, Pennsylvania continues to employ wasteful, discredited 19th century economic development strategies that enrich multinational corporations at the cost of our residents. While programs like the Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZ) and the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) can and have provided real benefits to Pennsylvanians, all too often these billion-dollar programs are deployed to fund luxury hotels and office buildings and to bribe companies into remaining in the Commonwealth. If we are going to fund construction projects that principally benefit large corporations, we must demand that they provide real public benefits, like union jobs, affordable housing, and green infrastructure. New language in the uniformity clause should be instituted to exempt school districts from abatement language. Even when property taxes are abated for new construction and development in disinvested areas, local schools funds should not be impacted by this policy
Encourage municipalities to adopt new land use designations that would accommodate mixed use Community Land Trusts. These new designation could zone for housing, community-based manufacturing and businesses (particularly those providing clean energy, cooperative ownership structures, and care services), and urban agriculture.