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.


RHLS Adopts New Strategic Plan

RHLS’s Board of Directors has adopted a new strategic plan for 2018-2021. The Board and Staff were actively engaged in thinking through where RHLS has been, what it is currently doing, and where it wants to go. We have created an ambitious plan that has us broadening the focus of our work to better serve low-income and vulnerable Pennsylvanians: health & housing and equity.

Further, recognizing that housing and community development in the United States is historically intertwined with questions of equity—especially racial equity—RHLS intends to expand its existing work to increase meaningful housing and community choices for low-income households.

Housing is increasingly considered a significant social determinate of health. As such, RHLS will use our extensive experience in housing and community development to add real value to those seeking to address housing from the health perspective. We know that the housing and health worlds are very different, but we are committed to learning more about health and working at the intersection of these two issues.

Most importantly, RHLS will press on with the affordable housing work that we have done for decades. It is the core of who and what we are. We look forward to using this work as the foundation that will enable us to bring value to the health and equity priority areas.

Look out for updates on social media and via the RHLS email list as the plan takes shape.

Read the 2018-2021 Strategic Plan


Recent Groundbreakings & Grand Openings

Gloria Casarez Residence
Project HOME
Philadelphia, PA

RHLS attorneys provided  Project HOME with legal and technical assistance on their Gloria Casarez Residence, which includes 30 units of housing for LGBTQ young adults at risk of homelessness. This residence is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and one of the first in the entire United States. In addition to affordable, permanent housing, residents will receive supportive services to assist them in obtaining employment/education, medical care, and other services to prevent homelessness as identified.

Roberto Clemente Middle School
Philadelphia, PA

The former Roberto Clemente Middle School, located in the Hunting Park Section of Philadelphia, is currently being converted to provide 38 units of affordable rental housing and 5,000 square feet of commercial space by RHLS client Esperanza. In addition to providing critically needed affordable housing to a gentrifying neighborhood, the development rehabilitated the previously abandoned school building.

SteelTown Village
Petra Community Housing
Phoenixville, PA

SteelTown village will include 48 units of affordable housing for low-income individuals and families, seniors, and veterans in the Phoenixville section of Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Petra Community Housing remediated the site for the housing development, successfully converting a designated “brownfield” to a “greenfield.” Further, the additional affordable housing in the Phoenixville area will meet a key community need, as recent housing development has largely catered to higher income renters.

The Eastern Tower Community
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation secured the assistance of RHLS to develop The Eastern Tower Community, a $75 million, 20-story building located at 10th and Arch Streets in the Center City section of Philadelphia. The development will include 150 units of affordable housing for and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. The building will house the Chinatown Learning Center, a bilingual preschool program. Planning for this significant development began in 2011.


Witherspoon Senior Apartments  and Cantrell Place
Presby’s Inspired Life
Philadelphia, PA

Presby’s Inspired Life broke ground on their Witherspoon Senior Apartments and Cantrell Place developments in September of 2017.  The Witherspoon Senior Apartments, located in Southwest Philadelphia, will provide 60 units of affordable housing for low-income individuals age 62 and over. The building will be the fourth development on the Presby’s Inspired Life “58th Street Campus,” which already serves 240 seniors. According to Presby’s Inspired Life, the community has a waiting list of approximately 500 individuals that are interested in the affordable housing on the campus.

Cantrell Place will also provide units for seniors and is located in South Philadelphia. The development will transform blighted vacant lots at 5th & Cantrell Streets.

Seymoure and Corinne Krause Commons
ACTION-Housing, Inc. and Jewish Residential Services
Pittsburgh, PA

RHLS assisted long time clients ACTION-Housing, Inc. and Jewish Residential Services with the development of the Seymour and Corinne Krause Commons located near Murray and Forward Avenues in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. The building will include 33 units of housing, half of which are designated for individuals living with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities. The development will also include supportive services provided through Jewish Residential Services. Construction began on the Commons in July of 2017.

In Memory of Lorry Post, Founder of RHLS


A photo from Lacey Park, the first community RHLS represented in the early 1970s.

Forty-five years ago, Lorry Post responded to a need in Southeastern Pennsylvania— low-income communities were eager to rebuild and renew but had difficulty accessing the means to do so.

As he worked to ensure that the families and communities that needed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds actually received them, Regional Housing Legal Services (RHLS) came to be.

Lorry hired two young attorneys, Mark Levin and Mark Schwartz, to work with communities across the five-county area.

Mark Levin credits Lorry’s sense of justice and his inspiring vision for how lawyers could help low-income communities as the reason that he joined RHLS and became involved in housing-related work. 

Since the early 1970s, RHLS has assisted in the development and preservation of over 10,000 units of affordable housing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. RHLS attorneys have worked on policy matters on local, state, and national levels to protect low-income families and communities as well as to make additional resources available to improve their lives.

Even after his departure from RHLS, Lorry continued to work in legal aid and to advocate for low-income individuals. Over the span of his career as an attorney, he impacted thousands of lives in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Twenty years ago, Lorry wrote a letter regarding his role in founding RHLS in honor of the organization’s twenty-fifth anniversary:

When I founded RHLS some 25 years ago, in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the progress and accomplishments that has been the history of this organization. Though I dreamed of a fully livable community for lower income families, I did not foresee what has been accomplished through the efforts of my successors at RHLS.My limited goal was to assure that low-income communities could take advantage of government and private programs to help in the rebuilding of their communities. In particular, CDBG was the major focus of my efforts.
Those efforts were aimed at assuring that the most disadvantaged families and communities in the five-county area were the primary targets for the dollars in this particular program, and that, among other activities, every single low-income homeowner who needed rehabilitation of his/her home would be given that opportunity. The program was highly successful in attaining that and other goals.
However, it was not until my departure from the program, and the two new leaders, Mark Schwartz and Mark Levin assumed the reins, that the program moved far beyond those limited goals. Now, I see the development of new housing, as well as rehabilitated housing, blooming everywhere in the area for habitation by low and moderate income families and senior citizens. I see complementary services, commercial, health and community activities and structures, all of which improve the quality of life for the residents of the area, blooming as well. Finally, I see full, vibrant communities blooming, giving the residents the opportunity to experience all of the benefits of the American dream.
I may have had the dream, but as a pragmatic person, it was more of a fantasy. I did not truly think that this dream could be fulfilled. Now, I am pleased beyond words that the leaders and staff and Board and volunteers of RHLS have brought this dream to fruition, beyond what I or anyone else could have expected. I applaud each and every one of you and will be always grateful.

Lorry, the staff and board of RHLS applaud and are grateful to you for your courage and humility.

Obituary for Lorry William Post