Senior, vulnerable homeowners and renters are focal point of new legislation

Legislation has been introduced by Pennsylvania State Representatives this week that will equalize income levels, increase rebate amounts, and raise the highest income bracket for senior and vulnerable homeowners and renters. 

Seeking to expand Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) Program, State Reps. Izzy Smith-Wade-El (D-Lancaster) and Carol Hill-Evans (D-York) introduced the legislation on Monday. 

“It has become too hard to afford a home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Smith-Wade-El said in a statement. “For many of our senior homeowners and renters, the place in which they live is a legacy of work, life, and love, and we have an obligation to protect them and that legacy by helping them stay in their homes.” 

Smith-Wade-El added that older Pennsylvanians are struggling to pay for necessities such as food and rent. 

“Despite rising inflation and cost-of-living increases,” Smith-Wade-El said, “PTRR’s income limits, rebate amounts, and other provisions have not been modified to correspond to these economic changes, resulting in fewer people qualifying for the program and the program rebates failing to provide the necessary financial assistance.” 

Smith-Wade-El stated that the PTRR has long discriminated against renters, stating that they deserve less support than homeowners. Expanding the PTRR will provide the needed support to allow seniors and individuals with disabilities to remain living in their homes. 

“If we act now to expand PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said, “we can preserve this crucial support for thousands of seniors who would otherwise lose eligibility next year because their Social Security cost-of-living adjustments will push them above the eligibility threshold.” 

The highest available current rebate is $650 for homeowners and renters with up to $8,000 in household income, with lower rebates available for those with higher incomes; while homeowners with income up to $35,000 qualify for a property tax rebate, renters can only receive a rent rebate if their income does not exceed $15,000. 

The reforms sought by Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans in their legislation would have the same income brackets and increase the rebate amounts for homeowners and renters: those with income below $15,000 would be eligible for a $1,300 rebate; those with an income of $15,001-$25,000 would be eligible for a $975 rebate, and those with an income of $25,001-$45,000 would be eligible for a $650 rebate. 

“Significantly, the legislation would extend the highest income bracket from $35,000 to $45,000 to match today’s cost of living and so provide thousands more Pennsylvanians the support they deserve from the PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said. 

Hill-Evans urged legislators to act quickly to expand the housing protections to protect Pennsylvania residents who are in danger of losing their homes. 

“None of our vulnerable neighbors deserve to lose the roof over their head,” Hill-Evans said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do, especially when you consider the current economic climate and how long it’s been since we’ve adjusted the program’s income parameters.” 

Smith-Wade-El wondered how many Pennsylvania grandmothers and grandfathers are being pushed out of their homes by rising living costs. The legislation introduced by him and Hill-Evans, Smith-Wade-El said, will “help expand the safety net so that senior and disabled members of our community can keep their roofs over their heads.” 

A sense of urgency to reform the PTRR program is shared by Gov. Josh Shapiro, Smith-Wade El said. In his inaugural budget address Shapiro proposed expanding the PTRR Program by raising income eligibility caps to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters, indexing eligibility caps to inflation, and increasing maximum rebates to $1,000.  

The first major update since 2006, these changes would expand program eligibility to 173,000 individuals and increase assistance to an additional 398,000 people. 

Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans said they look forward to partnering with Shapiro to expand PTRR so that vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania can stay in their homes. 

Harrisburg, York community projects receive funding boost

Grants from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program will be used for community projects in Harrisburg and York, it was announced Friday. 

Funds were awarded through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, a commonwealth grant program overseen by the Office of the Budget to assist with regional cultural, economic, civic, and historical projects that improve a community’s economic growth by creating jobs and opportunities. 

State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin County, announced that four grants totaling $8.8 million will be used for community projects in her district. “This funding is incredibly important for Harrisburg’s growth,” said Kim. “I am happy to see these projects get the funding they need to break ground.” 

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York County, said three community projects in York County are receiving $3.5 million in grants from the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program. Hill-Evans works with organizations in her district and those serving her district, encouraging them to submit grant applications. She also provides letters of support and follows up with state-level decision-makers to gain approval for the projects. 

Harrisburg projects to receive the funding include the following: 

  • $3 million to Reily GreenWorks for the development of studio lofts and apartments, as well as neighborhood-oriented retail on the ground floor. 
  • $1.5 million to Harrisburg Events Center to complete extensive renovations including the replacement of windows and doors, replacement of roof, conversion of third floor into a hospitality suite, and the renovation of the basement to include a kitchen, distribution office and meeting space. 
  • $2.75 million to Harristown Enterprise Inc. for the renovation of the Harristown Agriculture Building. This project entails substantial interior demolition and abatement of hazardous materials used in older building construction, as well as core and shell construction. 
  • $1.6 million to Millworks Historic Campus Preservation for the restoration of the restaurant and surrounding area. The restoration project will entail the rehabilitation of 1321 N. Fourth St., currently vacant, and the conversion of Sayford St. into an outdoor gathering space. 

York projects receiving funding include: 

  • $2 million to Crispus Attucks York to construct a History and Culture Center which will explore, document, and showcase the African American story and its impact on York City as well as African Americans’ important place in and contributions to American history. 
  • $500,00 to Precision Custom Components, LLC to renovate a portion of the deteriorated old manufacturing space at 160 North Hartley St. into usable manufacturing areas. When completed, this facility will be capable of manufacturing a variety of custom products for the defense and energy industries. 
  • $1 million to Zion Lutheran Church to redevelop the exterior and interior, create an event space, and extend the campus of the Yorktowne Hotel. Construction will include restoration of the interior vestibule, assembly hall, balcony, double curved stairways, cemetery vaults, wooden newel posts, balustrades, rib-vaulted ceilings and detailed wooden doors.