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Pa. House committee unanimously advances housing access bills


John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 20, 2024

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House Housing and Community Development Committee unanimously voted to advance a slate of housing access bills, that aims to encourage more affordable housing and protect homeowners and tenants.

House Bill 1386, which is sponsored by freshman lawmakers state Reps. Thomas Kutz (R-Cumberland) and Josh Siegel (D-Lehigh), would allow municipalities to apply for a special designation as an “Attainable Housing Community” from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development if they follow multiple options aimed at increasing housing in areas where they are currently not zoned. 

Kutz said on Tuesday that the bill “would encourage municipalities to think creatively about housing solutions.” 

“I believe it’s critical to encourage the development of more housing, more types of housing, and more affordable housing in our Commonwealth,” Kutz said. “I believe this bill and the amendment are a step in the right direction.”

House Bill 1549, sponsored by state Rep. Dave Madsen (D-Dauphin), would aim to help tenants relocate when their rental property is condemned

Madsen said he noticed the issue when stakeholders in his community approached him saying that some properties were being rented out that were in poor condition and believed that changes to the statute could “hold that small percentage of bad landlords accountable.” 

“The legislation focuses the language on that and levels the playing field for tenants,” Madsen said. 

An amendment to the bill that was also unanimously approved would give timelines and outlines financial responsibility when a property needs to be vacated, as well as when it’s ready to be reoccupied.

House Resolution 230, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Webster (D-Montgomery), would direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on the cost and effectiveness of “Housing First” programs that are currently taking place in places like Houston, Texas to see if they can translate to Pennsylvania. 

Homeless veterans struggling with PTSD and those struggling with substance abuse are among those Webster said he believes could benefit from a “Housing First” program in Pennsylvania. 

“The idea there is if you take those individuals and give them housing first then they have a sense of stability so that the other services can take root,” he explained.  

House Bill 657, sponsored by state Reps. Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia) and Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia), would provide consumer protection for homeowners against unfair realty agreements.

Bullock said the bill would “put some guardrails in place to protect homeowners in the future,” from what she described as “unfair” and “deceiving practices.” 

House Bill 1976, sponsored by Siegel, would revise zoning laws to allow for multifamily housing and mixed use developments in zones designated for office spaces. 

“We both think this is a really important step to addressing the lack of housing stock, the lack of affordable housing stock,” said state Rep. Tarik Khan (D-Philadelphia), who is working with Siegel on the bill. “I think it makes a lot of sense.”

This bill has now been re-referred to the Local Government Committee.

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This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.