- Conservatorship Law
The Pennsylvania Conservatorship Law is an expeditious way for nonprofits to eliminate a spot of blight in a key location without acquiring the parcel via condemnation. It is also a tool for municipalities to address a problem property, and for owners of neighboring residential and commercial properties to remediate blight at an adjacent property.
Regional Housing Legal Services has issued a Conservatorship Implementation and Best Practices Manual to streamline and facilitate the use of the law. This is a useful toolkit for those seeking to eliminate blight to evaluate the property as a candidate for conservatorship, gather all pertinent facts and documents, and enable legal counsel to prepare a conservatorship petition.
The manual and an executive summary are available on our Publications page.
RHLS led a diverse coalition of policymakers, government officials, legal colleagues, funders and other experts to alleviate an unfair tax burden on Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties — an outcome that, in effect, preserved a vast category of affordable housing investment in Pennsylvania. Appraisers in certain counties of Pennsylvania began counting the investment capital inherent to LIHTC developments as income — even on properties managed by nonprofits. This interpretation of county assessment law threatened to send millions of new investment dollars out of state.
In early 2003, RHLS, whose lawyers are among the nation’s top LIHTC experts, assembled a working group seeking to amend the statute on appraisal practice, in part by clarifying the impact of current policy. By year-end, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted House Bill 1854 asserting that affordability restrictions must be taken into account when assessing properties and that “tax credits shall not be considered real property or income attributable to real property.”
RHLS united the appropriate stakeholders to expand affordable housing opportunities for very low-income people with disabilities. In a process that lasted several years, RHLS and disability advocates developed working relationships with key representatives of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare that resulted in criteria for allocating LIHTC credits that, for the first time, linked affordability with accessibility offering incentives to developers to provide accessible housing for low income, disabled residents. Today, Pennsylvania is the only state using internal rent subsidies to provide LIHTC units to that population.
To date, these incentives have led to the construction of more than 500 units throughout the Commonwealth, a benefit of more than $34 million. Learn more about this issue in our Shelterforce Article.
Responding to the need of several of our clients who were having difficulty developing mixed-income housing in disinvested areas of the state, RHLS helped to develop a concept that is now one of the most popular and successful programs of its kind in the Commonwealth: the Homeownership Choice Program (HCP).
In its first seven years, HCP’s $75 million investments have leveraged over $462 million in additional housing, infrastructure, and economic development investment in 65 Pennsylvania communities.
Building on HCP, and recognizing the importance of commercial corridors in reviving declining neighborhoods, RHLS spearheaded the creation of a second groundbreaking solution — PHFA’s Mixed-Use Facility Financing Initiative (MUFFI). MUFFI is the first coordinated statewide system enabling nonprofit developers to easily access financing for the diverse components of a mixed-use project. RHLS obtained PHFA funding for an extremely successful pilot project that served as proof of concept. Today, MUFFI is a permanent part of HCP and an engine for revitalization in more than a dozen communities across Pennsylvania.
Read about one successful MUFFI project in Western Pennsylvania.
The Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) provides state tax credit incentives for corporate investment in community renewal. In recent years, competing tax credit opportunities had lured away Pennsylvania investors, leaving up to half of available NAP credits unused. Working with government officials, nonprofits and the banking world, RHLS suggested revisions to program guidelines that make the NAP credit more competitive. Results of these statutory changes, coupled with a statewide campaign by RHLS to educate interested parties, exceeded expectations. In the first application period following legislative change, the Pennsylvania DCED received more than 160 NAP applications totaling $25 million in tax credits with an additional $45 million in investments.
Including Health Care as a Component of Community Impact
Based on RHLS’ work with Brandywine Health Foundation, and with the support of the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) revised how it determines the community impact of tax credit developments.
Criteria now include whether a development “expands quality of life and fulfills a need for health care choices for residents of the community.”
- research, education and legislation to enable owners of manufactured housing to purchase the land on which their homes are located;
- working as part of a statewide collaborative to identify ways to increase the utilization of existing funds for weatherization of affordable multi-family housing;
- advocating for revision to Pennsylvania’s Qualified Allocation Plan to protect victims of domestic violence;
- identifying and supporting effective foreclosure-prevention programs and practices
- releasing a manual on conservatorship (giving detailed guidance to attorneys about how to use the state’s conservatorship law, which is meant to increase the options that community organizations and neighbors have to deal with abandoned and blighted properties).