In 2020, the Commonwealth made nearly $46 million in Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) funding available for housing programs. The PHARE fund was created in 2010 to provide a way to manage housing assistance. Since 2013, a portion of the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee supported the PHARE program.
At the time of its inception, the PHARE fund was a way for natural gas producers to offset shortages in housing caused by specialty out-of-state workers. A lot has changed since then, especially since the workforce now includes a higher percentage of locally-trained employees. However, the need for affordable housing continues, and we are happy to see Impact Fees come back to the area.
In Bradford County, the PHARE program is managed by the commissioners’ chief clerk, Michelle Shedden. Of $750,000 received last year, $600,000 was given to Trehab Community Action Agency for a homebuyers assistance program. Dennis Phillips, Executive Director of Trehab, credits the commissioners for coming up with a plan to rescue old housing stock. “The commissioners were concerned that someone might buy a home and not be able to afford the repairs. That would be a declining situation,” Phillips explained. So, PHARE funding helps replace roofs and furnaces and make upgrades to electricity. “They’ll have a house in pretty good shape as they move forward.”
The remaining $150,000 was earmarked for the county’s homeless assistance program. This provides for families in the county who need help with rent, utilities, or new rental deposits.
Bradford County also provides funds from the homeless assistance account for inmates who are eligible for release but have no home plan. “This allows the inmate to stay in a support house for four months,” Shedden related. “During their stay, they are required to get a job, go to meetings and follow a strict process to help them return to the general population.”
In Wyoming County, Trehab manages the entire PHARE program with a focus on homeowner assistance. The $126,000 received this past year helps those meeting income guidelines get up to $10,000 for a down payment and money to cover closing costs.
In Susquehanna County, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HR&A) handles the PHARES funding. Last year, they received $995,000 to go toward their housing efforts. Much of their share will be for the construction of three duplex ranch-style homes in the Hallstead area. This will produce six affordable homes, primarily for elders looking to downsize.
“The Marcellus Shale PHARE funds have been extremely beneficial in providing affordable housing to Susquehanna County residents,” said Bobbi Jo Turner, the HR&A Grants Administrator. “Over the past few years, six units have been built in New Milford, six in Forest City and countless residents have been assisted with housing rehabilitation and rental and utility assistance.”