Sealing the Cracks in Weatherization and Home Repair

Deferred home maintenance can lead to serious structural, safety, and health issues. A new program in Pennsylvania aims to fill the gaps in home repair and weatherization programs.

2 minute read

August 12, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By LM_Ortiz

Worker caulking cracks in a home window

Greg McGill / Sealing home windows

High utility bills and years of deferred maintenance have forced many low-income homeowners and renters in Pennsylvania to live with lead paint, drafty windows, leaky roofs, exposed wiring, mold, and other health hazards. Many residents endure these conditions because they can’t afford to make repairs. Others are forced to abandon their homes, allowing pests and crime to fester, or sell to an investor.

It’s a story heard in both urban and rural communities across Pennsylvania, with many weatherization and home repair programs failing to address the root problem and more homes falling further into disrepair.

The Whole-Home Repairs Program aims to address this issue by providing grants to low-income homeowners and forgivable loans to small landlords for critical habitability repairs and energy efficiency and accessibility upgrades. The program also dedicates resources to coordinate home repair and weatherization programs and provides funding for workforce development to train people to do the work.

After a spring push to introduce the Whole-Home Repairs legislation, known as Senate Bill 1135, by Sen. Nikil Saval, the Pennsylvania legislature approved $125 million for fiscal year 2022-23 for the Whole-Home Repairs Program. It’s a one-time influx of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, but Saval is confident the program will prove its value and receive ongoing funding. The program includes money for income-eligible homeowners to apply for grants of up to $50,000 for home repairs. For a household to qualify, income cannot exceed 80 percent of the area median income.

“We’re glad that the Legislature acted to enact something that is popular and will be popular,” says Saval, a Democrat representing Philadelphia, who gathered a coalition of community organizations, housing and energy advocates, and residents to support the Whole-Home Repairs Act. “We know from our survey data there is immense need for this across the commonwealth.”

Need for Home Repair Reform

Pennsylvania, and particularly Philadelphia, has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. Roughly one in four Pennsylvania voters need critical repairs to their homes and almost one in three say their utility bills are unaffordable. Almost half of Pennsylvania voters who are homeowners, including many in Philadelphia ...

Friday, August 5, 2022 in Shelterforce Magazine

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