Mar. 13, 2024

HARRISBURG – A group of House members this week has unveiled a package of 12 bills to help more individuals afford and obtain housing in the Commonwealth.

The package focuses on affordability through tax breaks, grants and incentives for both homeowners and builders, as well as reassessing and updating building codes and regulations.

Members authoring legislation contained in the package include House Republican Housing and Community Development Committee Chairman Rich Irvin (R-Franklin/Huntingdon) along with Reps. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon), Thomas Kutz (R-Cumberland), Andrew Kuzma (R-Allegheny/Washington), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh), Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland), Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland) and David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster).

Bill sponsors note that over the past four years, a lack of supply, coupled with increasing costs for both rentals and home purchases, are making it difficult for Pennsylvanians to find appropriate housing. According to some estimates, Pennsylvania is short 98,000 housing units, and the median new home sale price in Pennsylvania last year was $560,152, which is $130,000 more than the national average. Meanwhile, rent increases have grown so severe that most counties in the Commonwealth have less than 30% of renters paying below the recommended 30% of their income on housing.

“Government regulation has clearly contributed to the slowing of housing creation, fueling an ever-worsening shortage,” according to the bill sponsors.

“We know housing, which is both affordable and readily available, supports stable families, promotes employment, weans those living at or below poverty levels off public support by transitioning them to family-supporting jobs, and supports local economies. In addition, business leaders continue to emphasize the current labor shortage in Pennsylvania is being exacerbated by a lack of housing stock for workers, making it impossible to fill open positions as workers cannot find adequate housing nearby.

“The time has come to address this growing problem. We need to get government out of the way so housing needs may be met. Our economy, our families and our communities depend on it.”

The package of bills would:
• Require a yearly report from municipalities about housing needs, shortages, solutions, etc. (Kuzma)
• Allow communities that are creative about housing (allowing for mixed use, accessory dwelling units; missing middle housing; or supporting programs to refurbish existing homes) to apply for the Attainable Housing Community Designation. Those communities would receive priority consideration with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for Pennsylvania Housing Affordability Fund grants. (Kutz - House Bill 1386)
• Allocate Realty Transfer Tax revenues after required transfers to the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program for an increase to the Homestead Exclusion. (Benninghoff)
• Create a First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account to allow individuals to save income pre-tax toward the purchase of a home. (Kutz)
• Provide a Realty Transfer Tax exemption for first-time homebuyers. (Kutz - House Bill 1387)
• Allow tax claim bureaus to enter into hardship agreements with homeowners who have fallen behind on their taxes. This would assist with keeping individuals in their homes. (Irvin)
• Allow for waivers of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for land disturbances between 1-5 acres to align with federal standards. This could save an individual who buys land to build a home almost $40,000. (Zimmerman - House Bill 1345)
• Allow low-interest loans for housing developers to help front the cost of projects with an added focus on improving public infrastructure. (Nelson)
• Allow for a sliding scale based on home square footage size for blower door tests in the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) to allow for smaller home construction. (Mackenzie)
• Provide for the adoption of building code standards for “tiny homes.” (Major)
• Enact a resolution directing the PA auditor general to audit the Whole Homes Repair Program. (Irvin)
• Instruct the Review and Advisory Council to skip the next UCC adoption round to study existing codes and identify cost drivers to building, as well as create a list of alternatives to the codes that would not compromise safety. (Heffley)

Co-sponsorship memos to garner support for the bills that have not yet been introduced are currently being circulated before they are assigned to House committees for consideration.

Editor’s Note: The following link contains soundbites from Rep. Thomas Kutz as well as video of current and new housing in Cumberland County. 

Representative Rich Irvin
81st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

PA Housing Shortage, Attainability Focus of 12-Bill House Package