Help with Heating Assistance: 2018-2019 LIHEAP Pennsylvania Advocates Manual

The Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) has released its 2018-2019 Pennsylvania Advocates Manual for those seeking funds from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for those they serve.

The applications and guidelines for LIHEAP often change from year to year, and these changes can be confusing for both applicants and their advocates. The LIHEAP Manual is a working reference that aids understanding of and access to the benefits provided by Pennsylvania’s LIHEAP.

Many customers eligible do not apply, and those who do often receive less than their potential benefits. 

Download the 2018-2019 LIHEAP Pennsylvania Advocates Manual and share it with advocates and service providers across the Commonwealth!

The Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) provides information, assistance, and advice about residential utility and energy matters affecting low-income consumers. PULP serves all of Pennsylvania. PULP is a specialized component of Regional Housing Legal Services and is based in Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania. PULP acts in coordination with the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network of Programs and other nonprofit agencies and community groups.

Revitalization for Seniors in West Oak Lane

On Thursday, October 18th, the Senate of Pennsylvania announced a $400,000 initiative to revitalize homes in the West Oak Lane neighborhood was announced at a press conference at the West Oak Lane Senior Center. Funds provided by the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) will be used to make needed repairs and modifications to 32 homes belonging to moderate-income seniors in the community.  

These home modifications will ensure that seniors can continue to safely live in the community they have called home for decades.  

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s report, Housing America’s Older Adults, cites accessibility as, “essential to older adults’ health and safety as physical and cognitive limitations increase.” Further, as aging can bring increased risks of disability, isolation, and financial stress, allowing seniors to stay in places where they have built deep community ties is key to their well-being. The communities, in turn, benefit from committed residents with investment, experience, and care for the neighborhood.   

The initiative is led by Senator Art Haywood, who formerly worked at RHLS, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia,  Representative Isabella Fitzgerald, and Congressman Dwight Evans, with the assistance of Community Legal Services and Cindy Daley, Director of Community Redevelopment Initiatives at RHLS.  

RHLS provided legal and technical assistance in securing CFA funds as part of a larger effort to provide aid to communities in northwest Philadelphia that have been hit hardest by home foreclosures. As the initiative is implemented, RHLS will provide ongoing legal and technical assistance.

Healthy Homes are an Investment in Health: Shared Prosperity Roundtable

On Friday, June 22nd, Shared Prosperity hosted a Roundtable on Healthy Homes. Speakers ranged from local weatherization providers, to health experts, to national model builders. The message throughout was clear — housing is health and investing in good quality, healthy homes are an investment in health.

The questions now are mostly about which interventions to pursue and how to pay for them. The speakers identified a number of strategies being used both in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

Brief summaries of several of the presentations are below, with links to the powerpoint files (from Shared Prosperity).

  • Green & Health Homes Initiative: discusses a number of models being used across the US with integration between health, housing, and utilities. Funding sources include: attorney general funds, settlement funds, utility funds, aging funds, and more. GHHI has also been active with Pay for Success efforts.
  • National Nurse-Led Care Consortium: reviews data connecting housing with health, work being done across the state, and the need for more sustained support in Philadelphia as well as more statewide support for Community Health Workers.
  • Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program: discusses strong links between pests and asthma as well as the disparities in adverse asthma outcomes based on race; also urged more support for Community Health Workers.

As a part of our new strategic plan, RHLS is working to understand key issues at the intersection of housing & health and building new partnerships in this space. This Roundtable was part of that effort. Check back for updates as this exciting work begins to unfold.

Pittsburgh City Council Funds Housing Opportunity Fund

Mullin & Lonergan Associates, Inc. estimates that the City of Pittsburgh lacks 20,000 units of affordable housing for people with extremely low incomes. To respond to this significant challenge, RHLS Staff Attorney, Bob Damewood, worked with the Pittsburgh Affordable Housing Task Force to generate a policy response to this critical need.

After two years of hard work, including researching national best practices, reviewing potential revenue sources, and collecting and analyzing data, the Pittsburgh City Council approved ten million dollars in December of 2017 for the Pittsburgh Housing Opportunity Fund.  The ten million dollars for the Pittsburgh Housing Opportunity Fund will be available each year for twelve years, per the legislation signed into law by Mayor William Peduto.

The Pittsburgh Housing Opportunity Fund will primarily receive funding from a raise to the Realty Transfer Tax, a one-time charge levied when a taxpayer must finance a home. The task force is exploring additional sources of revenue for the fund to ensure its viability on a long-term basis. Though closing costs from home sales may go up slightly as a result, low and moderate-income homebuyers may be eligible for assistance through the Fund.

The $10 million Fund can be used to provide gap funding for new affordable housing developments and help low-income families with both buying a home and funding rehabilitation expenses.

Congratulations to Bob and the Task Force on this victory. Check back soon to learn more about the administration of the Fund as it unfolds.

Click to read the Affordable Housing Task Force Findings and Recommendations to Mayor William Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council completed in May 2016.