Jozette Brown, a resident of West Philadelphia, has been striving to purchase a house for years. However, with a small two-bedroom apartment and limited savings, this goal seemed out of reach for her. The constant need to dip into her savings for bills and necessities, combined with the prospect of her oldest daughter attending college soon, made it difficult for Brown to envision a future as a homeowner.
Fortunately, Brown recently enrolled in a program that offers a solution to her financial struggles. The program, implemented by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), allows tenants to redirect the money they would pay in rent increases into a savings account. By participating in this program, Brown hopes to accumulate enough savings to purchase her first home within the next few years.
The PHFA, in collaboration with private owners and operators of multifamily housing, plans to launch a $2 million pilot program in early 2024. This initiative aims to enroll more tenants, like Brown, in the federal Family Self-Sufficiency Program. While the program has traditionally been associated with public housing, it has recently expanded to include privately owned subsidized housing.
By allocating funds to expand the asset-building program, the PHFA becomes the first housing finance agency in the nation to adopt this approach. The program, established in 1990, assists households receiving housing assistance in increasing their income and savings to achieve various goals, such as education expenses and homeownership.
While the program has proven to be remarkably effective, many tenants remain skeptical, resulting in low participation rates. In an effort to address this challenge, the PHFA’s pilot program will automatically enroll households with subsidized rent, making it more accessible and encouraging tenants to take advantage of the opportunity.
By dedicating resources to program coordinators and financial coaching for tenants, the PHFA aims to streamline the enrollment process and ensure landlords view this initiative as an additional service they can offer to their tenants. The National Council of State Housing Agencies anticipates that Pennsylvania’s pioneering efforts will inspire other affordable housing owners, landlords, and state agencies to follow suit and broaden the reach of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.