Opinion: Fund Whole-Home Repairs and help PA homeowners

The president of Low Country Building Solutions speaks on the need for Whole-Home Repairs funding.

Lawmakers and advocates rally in support of the Whole-Home Repairs program.

Lawmakers and advocates rally in support of the Whole-Home Repairs program. Office of State Sen. Nikil Saval

What if Pennsylvania had a single program to fight blight, cut energy bills, stabilize homes and communities –  and help seniors age in place?

The good news is: This program already exists. Whole-Home Repairs is an innovative program that funds health and safety repairs, accessibility improvements and energy and water efficiency measures in qualifying households. As president of a contracting company that performs Whole-Home Repairs work, I’ve seen firsthand how much good Whole-Home Repairs has achieved since it started in 2022.

The bad news? Continued funding for Whole-Home Repairs isn’t guaranteed. Gov. Josh Shapiro promised $50 million for Whole-Home Repairs funding in Pennsylvania’s 2024 budget, but that funding still needs to be approved by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the upcoming budget season. Like many others in the business community, I urge the Pennsylvania House and Senate to support funding for Whole-Home Repairs, both in this budget season and subsequent ones.

My company, Low Country Building Solutions, is a woman-owned, minority-owned, Pittsburgh-based business with four-to-five regular staff and an extensive network of short-term hires and partner contractors. Homeowner applications for Whole-Home Repairs in Allegheny County go to the county’s administrator, nonprofit Action Housing, who then contracts with companies like mine to carry out on-the-ground updates in approved local homes.

The work we do is often extensive and always rewarding. We’ve repaired foundations, replaced HVAC systems, air-sealed basements, replaced doors and windows and plenty more. In a cold and wet place like Allegheny County, we especially see homes that need roof repairs and mold remediation. Many Whole-Home Repairs projects involve accessibility improvements for seniors and disabled residents.

These improvements make a night-and-day difference in home safety, comfort and energy bills. For some people, they may make the difference between staying in their home and leaving it. When people get to stay in the homes where they’ve lived, worked and raised families, good things happen for their communities. Blight is mitigated and property tax rolls stay stable. Whole-Home Repairs also helps homeowners access further energy efficiency programs like the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides federal funding to help low-income residents save energy but normally must defer applications from homes in critical disrepair.

It’s rewarding work, but it also puts us face-to-face with a disappointing reality: The funding originally allocated for Whole-Home Repairs is not enough to meet the incredible need in our communities. We’ve worked on homes in Allegheny County where the homeowner’s neighbors will come over, find out about the program, and apply – only to find out that there’s no more money to help them. You don’t have to take our word for it: A February 2024 survey of Whole-Home Repairs administrators found that nearly 17,000 Pennsylvania homes are currently on waitlists. These are eligible homeowners waiting for funding to make desperately needed repairs.

Whole-Home Repairs has been good for my business and businesses like mine across Pennsylvania. Work from Whole-Home Repairs has let us hire more staff on a short- and long-term basis. It has let us send staff to training in lead and mold remediation, so we can help create safer, healthier homes. Of course, there’s a lot more we could do if reliable and robust Whole-Home Repairs funding comes through. There are temporary hires whom I would love to hire as full-time employees, further staff development we’d love to invest in and of course, local homes we’d love to make safe, comfortable and efficient.

Whole-Home Repairs is a great program for Pennsylvanians – it just needs funding to continue executing the high-impact work already underway. I urge you to join me in asking the Pennsylvania legislature to authorize robust, ongoing funding for this incredible program.

Mona Minnie is the President of Low Country Building Solutions.