State Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) joined Berks Stands Up, Make the Road Pennsylvania, Sunrise Movement, and Berks County elected officials, community leaders, and residents Monday at Reading City Hall in a united call for permanent funding for Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking Whole-Home Repairs Program.
The Whole-Home Repairs Program passed in July 2022 with an initial $125-million appropriation to create and launch the program. But after decades of disinvestment in PA homes, the need is immense.
“My office has received more than 6,000 calls from residents who heard about the Whole-Home Repairs Program and who, for the first time, feel a sense of hope that their government will be an ally in providing them with the support they need to stay in their homes and in their communities,” said Senator Saval. “The need for this program is every bit as huge as we anticipated—and that’s why we’re calling on the state’s General Assembly to secure permanent funding. Whole-Home Repairs deserves investment because Pennsylvanians deserve investment.”
The Whole-Home Repairs Program establishes a one-stop shop in each county for lifesaving home repairs and weatherization, making it so that Pennsylvanians can stay warm, safe, and dry in homes they can afford while building out Pennsylvania’s workforce and creating new family-sustaining jobs in a growing field.
“This program is the first of its kind in this country—we are a model for other states,” said State Senator Judy Schwank (D–Berks). “This program allows us to make a substantial investment in Pennsylvania’s housing stock and to keep people safe. Every county in Pennsylvania needs this program. The right to housing is a fundamental right. All Pennsylvanians deserve a safe place to call home. With permanent funding, we can continue to put the safety and wellbeing of people and communities first.”
Demand for the program has been overwhelming, even before applications have opened for residents, and is expected to quickly outpace the available funds. Results of a spring 2022 survey by Data for Progress and People’s Action showed that a quarter of PA voters live in a home that needs a critical repair, and a third face high energy burdens, citing utility bills that are unaffordable.
“The cost of supplies has increased. The cost of utilities has increased. We want to stay in our homes, and we want our families to stay in their homes,” said State Representative Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D–Berks). “This program makes sure that hardworking families are able to afford and maintain their homes. Pennsylvanians have the right to feel safe and supported. We need more money to be allocated, and we need it to be recurring. As a new legislator, I will work continuously with my colleagues to make sure that this is possible.”
“Whole-Home Repairs is one of the most exciting bipartisan efforts to come out of Harrisburg in recent history,” said Spring Township Supervisor Jess Royer. “Homeowners and renters alike will have the ability to modernize their homes, reduce safety and health risks, and resist the gentrification threatening many well-established communities.”
Local residents of Berks County added their voices in support of the program.
“I have lived in the same apartment my entire life,” said Ezra Feliciano, with Berks Stands Up and Sunrise Movement. “This apartment is my house. It is my home. But my home needs to be fixed, like many homes in Reading. When I heard about the Whole-Home Repairs Program, I was instantly filled with hope. I started dreaming: ‘With that money we would have a new bathroom that is accessible for my mother.’ There are many families like mine. They deserve hope, too.”
“I have five children, and three of them live with me. The youngest is a child who has special needs,” said Maria Hernandez, with Make the Road Pennsylvania. “With a lot of sacrifice, my husband and I bought the house where we live 20 years ago. We cannot afford the repairs that our house needs. It’s urgent for the Whole-Home Repairs Program to receive the additional funding that homeowners and renters across the state need.”
In conjunction with the Week of Action, more than five dozen organizations released an open letter to the state’s General Assembly to call on representatives to allocate $300 million for the Whole-Home Repairs Program this year and to make funding for the program permanent.
“This is how we can begin to meet the scale of the crisis,” the organizations state. “The Whole-Home Repairs Program is a housing security initiative, an energy and climate resiliency initiative, an anti-blight initiative, a jobs initiative, and a community safety initiative. It will enable children to grow up in homes free from lead and mold, families to build generational wealth and wellness, and seniors to remain in their homes as they experience changes in their abilities.”
Pennsylvania residents are invited to add their names as supporters of the program.