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Supporting Locally Driven Community Development: The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Regional Housing Legal Services (RHLS), and with funding from The Heinz Endowments, Reinvestment Fund set out to understand how communities utilize the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) program and identify recommendations for improving the program’s application and reporting processes. This report summarizes our findings, describing the program’s history and eligibility criteria, summarizing lessons learned from 11 community projects funded by PHARE dollars, and providing an overview of PHARE funded projects across the Commonwealth.

In 2020 PHARE awarded nearly $55 million dollars which were used to create 3,246 affordable housing units. But PHARE funding also helps grantees leverage additional public and private funding. The state’s $55 million dollar investment through PHARE leveraged $509 million in additional funding.

The PHARE program could have a larger impact, but is limited by the level of funding and availability of grants. Every year the PHARE program receives more applications than it can fund, and only 35% of PHARE grantees in 2019 to 2020 received the full funding amount that they requested.

PHARE funding is uniquely responsive to local needs. The projects highlighted in our case studies underscore the unique way in which PHARE funding allows local communities to develop programs and interventions that meet their needs.

PHARE funding helps support some of the most vulnerable residents across the state, but at the same time also supports the broader community. Every grantee was able to describe how PHARE funding supported not only low-income families but also the broader community.

PHARE funding fills critical resource gaps in communities across the Commonwealth. Grantees spoke about how PHARE funding was a unique and critical resource in their community. Some smaller communities lack foundations or institutional funders that can help support community development efforts through grants. In these communities, PHARE grants are one of the largest sources of flexible funding to address community development needs.

PHARE funding is enabling innovative approaches to community challenges and helping to leverage new funding. The flexibility afforded by the PHARE program enables grantees to try out new approaches that other funders won’t yet support.

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