NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections

Bucks County
Big developments move forward in Bucks

Chester County
Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax

Delaware County
Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon

Montgomery County
Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home

Philadelphia County
‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups

 

News Briefs

 

General News

Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections
To help people who are having trouble affording their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration has extended and expanded forbearance and foreclosure relief programs for federally guaranteed mortgages. The administration recently announced it would: 

  • Extend the foreclosure moratorium for homeowners through June 30
  • Extend the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window until June 30 for borrowers who wish to request forbearance
  • Provide up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) applauded the moves. "This decision not only provides security of shelter to those at risk of foreclosure, but also offers critical stability in the broader U.S. housing market,” NAR president Charlie Oppler said. Homeowners and renters can visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website for up-to-date information on their relief options, protections and key deadlines.
Source: NAR.realtor; 2/17/2021

NAR report outlines new policies to address U.S. housing affordability problems
Nationwide housing inventory is lower than it has ever been since the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) began tracking such data in 1982. This week, NAR released new research arguing that the nation’s affordability crisis will require policymakers to adopt a number of localized solutions. The paper, “State and Local Policy Strategies to Advance Housing Affordability,” recommends lawmakers pursue solutions through three key avenues: financial policy measures; policies aimed at increasing the supply of housing and zoning; and permitting policy reform.
Source: NAR.realtor; 2/23/2021

State and federal COVID-19 updates: What they mean for Realtors®
On Feb. 19, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a fourth renewal of the COVID-19 emergency declaration first signed on March 6, 2020. The renewal extends the state’s emergency powers for an additional 90 days, unless terminated sooner. The primary outcome of this extension is that it simply maintains the status quo with existing state orders on various subjects. PAR continues to maintain an extensive pandemic FAQ, along with a set of suggested best practices. Read more here.
Source: PAR Just Listed; 2/23/2021

Pa. Department of State is conducting a professional licensure survey
The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) has launched the New Pennsylvanians Occupational Licensure Survey to study the effects of occupational licensure on the immigrant, refugee and asylee communities. The survey is part of a $422,000, three-year grant Gov. Tom Wolf secured from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2018 to reduce excessive occupational licensing requirements and explore alternative approaches, such as professional certification, that maintain public health and safety. To understand the experiences and needs of new Pennsylvanians, the DOS survey asks about topics such as language access, education, occupational licensing, licensure portability, employment and barriers related to professional licensing. The survey is confidential and available in multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Responses will be accepted through the end of July, and the findings will be made available by the end of the year. Click here for more information.
Source: Lower Bucks Times; 2/11/2021

Bucks County

Big developments move forward in Bucks
A variety of residential and industrial projects in Lower Makefield, Falls and Doylestown Borough have seen significant movement since December. The developments have the potential to add hundreds of new housing units and more than 1 million square feet of commercial space. Lower Makefield Township supervisors recently heard an informal review for Prickett Preserve at Edgewood — a mixed-use plan that includes nine three-story apartment buildings, seven commercial buildings, including a 100,000-square-foot Wegmans, and a mix of other retail and restaurant space. In Falls, NorthPoint Development closed on the purchase of the U.S. Steel site. The developer plans a $1.5 billion transformation of the property, building 10 million square feet or more of state-of-the-art warehousing over the next several years. Doylestown Borough planners recently saw revised plans for a mixed-use development at the former site of The Intelligencer at 333 N. Broad St. The plans include one four-story mixed-use building and one five-story apartment building on the 7.5-acre property. The four-story building will have retail businesses on its first floor, while the apartment building will have parking on the first floor.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/22/2021

Warrington water customers to see PFAS credits
Warrington residents who are customers of the North Wales Water Authority (NWWA) should start to see credits on their bills in the first quarter of 2021. The credits are funded by $7 million in state grants intended to address PFAS water contamination costs. The authority said the credits are expected to cover the average residential customer in Warrington for up to one year or more, based on actual usage. In 2016, widespread contamination of drinking water sources from unregulated toxic chemicals known as PFAS affected Warrington, Warminster and Horsham. Warrington officials began buying all of the township’s public drinking water from NWWA soon after, with ratepayers footing the upfront higher costs.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/20/2021

Perkasie sidewalks are open for business through the end of the year
Perkasie Borough Council unanimously voted to pass a resolution allowing outdoor retail sales and dining through Dec. 31. A similar resolution was passed in June 2020, but it has since expired. Perkasie has been actively committed to downtown revitalization for over a decade and hopes the measure will provide some “breathing room” for businesses affected by the pandemic. Borough Manager Andrea Coaxum said passing the resolution now gives business owners time to prepare for warmer temperatures in the spring.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 2/18/2021

Bucks County launches Human Services Connect Hub
The Bucks County Human Services Connect Hub went live this week. It aims to provide residents with a much-needed central entry point to what can seem from the outside like a tangled web of social services. Staffed by a full-time resource navigator, the Hub aims to link Bucks County residents and their families to the services of in-house departments, like the Area Agency on Aging or the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, as well as outside partners like the YWCA or the Bucks County Opportunity Council. To speak with someone at the Hub, call 215-348-6201 or email thehub@buckscounty.org. Located on the first floor of the Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., the Hub is open to calls and walk-ins weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Source: Lower Bucks Times; 2/18/2021

Chester County 

Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax
Phoenixville Borough Council will consider repealing the borough’s $5 per capita tax. A copy of the proposed ordinance may be found on the borough’s website. The ordinance will be considered on Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. during a virtual council meeting. Residents and taxpayers who wish to participate or listen to the meeting can find additional information on the borough’s website.
Source: Phoenixville Borough; 2/23/2021

Chesco, Delco school districts consider relaxing distance guidelines
School districts in Chester and Delaware counties are considering their broadest expansion of in-person instruction since the pandemic began, as health officials move to relax social distancing standards for school buildings. The guidance, expected to be issued this week by the Chester County Health Department, would cut from six feet to three feet the recommended minimum social distance among students, on the condition that their communities are below certain levels of virus transmission. Chester County Health Department is serving both counties as Delaware County works to create its own health department. The directive could spur nearly 30 public school districts in the two counties — which together serve tens of thousands of students — to begin welcoming back more students to their classrooms. It comes as the region, and the country, grapple with how to reopen schools safely — a fraught debate that has been complicated by a slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine to teachers. In a letter Friday to superintendents in the two counties, Chester County Health Director Jeanne Franklin acknowledged the “urgent need to reopen schools” and called in-school instruction “vital” for all children. “Because of the layered mitigation measures you have successfully implemented,” she wrote, “we support schools increasing more in-person learning through reduced physical distancing.” Chester County’s announcement drew immediate pushback from the state’s largest teachers union, which said it would “inevitably lead to overcrowded classrooms” and increase the risk to students, staff and communities.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/22/2021

County offers online pipeline information resource
Nearly 600 linear miles of pipeline corridors cross Chester County's landscape. Many of the pipelines have been in place for decades, but more recently the construction of new lines and upgrades to existing lines have increased. In 2013, the county created the Pipeline Information Center, a regularly updated resource for all aspects of pipeline issues, including pipeline safety, the pipeline review process, and the latest information on pipeline project activity in the county and the surrounding region. Recent actions taken by the Chester County Commissioners regarding potential safety threats to citizens can be found in the center’s announcements section.
Source: Chester County; 2/2021

Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway gets national recognition
The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway in Chester and Delaware counties is now designated as a National Scenic Byway. The announcement came from the Federal Highway Administration and PennDOT last week. The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Commission, the managing entity for the byway, extended thanks in a press release to the many groups who helped secure the recognition, including “the member townships, the cultural and scenic attractions along the byway, PennDOT, the convention and visitors’ bureaus, the planning commissions and especially the Delaware Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway with whom we will share a special future.” The Brandywine Scenic Byway begins at Wilmington’s Rodney Square and heads to the border with Pennsylvania. At that point it splits, with one section coming up Route 52 and another coming up Creek Road. The byway comes up those two roads to Lenape, then makes a figure-eight loop up to Strasburg Road at the edge of West Chester Borough. In all, it covers about 25 miles of Pennsylvania roadways.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 2/23/2021

Delaware County

Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon
Media Borough’s open space, parks and recreation survey is closing within the next week. Responses to the survey will be reviewed by the borough’s Open Space, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee to help the committee make decisions about which projects to support and how they are funded. Click here to take the survey.
Source: Media Borough; 2/23/2021

Chesco, Delco school districts consider relaxing distance guidelines
School districts in Chester and Delaware counties are considering their broadest expansion of in-person instruction since the pandemic began, as health officials move to relax social distancing standards for school buildings. The guidance, expected to be issued this week by the Chester County Health Department, would cut from six feet to three feet the recommended minimum social distance among students, on the condition that their communities are below certain levels of virus transmission. Chester County Health Department is serving both counties as Delaware County works to create its own health department. The directive could spur nearly 30 public school districts in the two counties — which together serve tens of thousands of students — to begin welcoming back more students to their classrooms. It comes as the region, and the country, grapple with how to reopen schools safely — a fraught debate that has been complicated by a slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine to teachers. In a letter Friday to superintendents in the two counties, Chester County Health Director Jeanne Franklin acknowledged the “urgent need to reopen schools” and called in-school instruction “vital” for all children. “Because of the layered mitigation measures you have successfully implemented,” she wrote, “we support schools increasing more in-person learning through reduced physical distancing.” Chester County’s announcement drew immediate pushback from the state’s largest teachers union, which said it would “inevitably lead to overcrowded classrooms” and increase the risk to students, staff and communities.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/22/2021

Delco expands COVID vaccine call center after deluge of calls
As more than 1,000 people daily call the Delaware County Vaccine Call Center, with some waiting on hold for hours, county officials have approved expanding the center with temporary staff so that residents’ concerns can be addressed in a timelier manner. Delaware County Council last week unanimously approved a roughly $692,000 contract with Helpware Inc. to provide temporary staffing and services beginning on March 1. The expense will be funded through the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocation. Delaware County Executive Director Howard Lazarus noted that neighboring counties are experiencing the same problem. Delaware County’s COVID Vaccine Call Center is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The telephone number is 484-276-2100.
Source: Daily Times; 2/22/2021

Darby Creek Valley Association to hold virtual town hall meeting
Darby Creek Valley Association (DCVA) will hold an Environmental Town Hall and Fireside Chat series for municipalities in its area. Topics will include stormwater, flooding, pollutants, dumping, air quality and any other concerns voiced by community members. An event for Haverford, Marple, Newtown and Springfield townships will be held on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. Visit the DCVA website's page to view event dates for other municipalities and to register.
Source: Aston Township; 2/10/2021

Montgomery County

Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home
A Money magazine analysis of U.S. cities and towns has ranked Lower Merion as the second-best place to live and work from home. Although Lower Merion had the highest percentage of residents working from home pre-pandemic, at 9.6%, Reston, Virginia, bested the township after the analysis took into account other factors, including racial diversity, median sales price of homes, education and amenities. Money analyzed 157,000 data points across nearly 2,000 cities and towns.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/2/2021

Green Resource Center to be built in Norristown Farm Park
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) will establish a new Green Resource Center in Montgomery County’s Norristown Farm Park. The center will include a teaching farm, a greenhouse with appropriate heating and cooling systems powered in part by solar energy, shade area for seedlings, a wash station, a pavilion for public programming, pollinator gardens, community garden beds, and workforce-development opportunities in conjunction with YWCA Tri-County Area. The center will be operational in spring 2021. With funding from the Montgomery County CARES Act Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program, it will support a countywide effort to engage and support gardeners to grow more food for themselves and their neighbors, which has become critically important during the pandemic. This funding will also provide support for job training in the field of horticulture. Click here for more information.
Source: Montgomery County; 2/2021

SEPTA to use $40M in COVID-19 relief on proposed King of Prussia line
SEPTA is proposing to spend about $40 million in federal economic relief funds, which was mostly earmarked to help transit agencies operate buses and trains during the pandemic, on design and engineering work to advance the King of Prussia rail project. The Federal Transit Administration has approved the reallocation, and it will go before the SEPTA board this week. Some transit advocates have expressed concerns that the move will make it harder to maintain levels of service, saying the funds could be better spent on adding buses to prevent overcrowding during the pandemic. The King of Prussia extension has long been sought by SEPTA and regional planners because it would link one of the fastest-growing areas in the state with the Norristown Transportation Center and the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, offering connections to Center City.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/23/2021

No tax hike anticipated for Pottstown School District
Despite a projected deficit, property owners in the Pottstown Area School District are not likely to see a property tax increase for the coming school year. According to members of the school board’s finance committee, reduced costs due to virtual learning have added more than $3 million to district reserves over the course of the year. That is enough to cover a projected $1.7 million deficit in the 2021-2022 school year draft budget. The draft budget assumes that none of Gov. Tom Wolf’s expansive budget proposals for increasing and more fairly distributing state education monies will come to pass and instead is built on the assumption that state funding “will be flat or reduced,” said district business manager Maureen Jampo. In other news, Jampo reported that assessed property value in the district dropped again in 2020, although the impact to the budget was minimal — about $21,000.
Source: Digital Notebook Blog; 2/19/2021

Philadelphia

‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups
Philadelphia residents should begin to feel the impact of the city’s poverty action plan this spring. As part of the ambitious plan to move 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty over the next five years, the city sent $4.5 million to community organizations so they can help people with their taxes — including accessing unclaimed state and federal benefits as well as offering help with other financial services and legal counseling. The overall plan, passed by city council last November, committed $10 million in total to the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey to spearhead the initiative. Designed to send resources to people rather than programs, the public-private partnership will experiment with strategies such as rent subsidies, property tax relief, job training stipends and increased access to public benefits. “This is the first part of many, many phases of this initiative, because poverty didn’t happen in the short-term and it’s not going to get resolved in the short-term, but we have to start somewhere,” Councilman Darrell Clarke said. Philadelphia has long ranked as the nation’s poorest big city, with almost a quarter of its population living below the poverty line. To combat homelessness, the plan suggests increasing the use of financial and legal aid by providing direct assistance to tenants. The plan also suggests dedicating local resources to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund, expanding the scope of home repairs to keep people in their homes, and reclaiming vacant lands. Read the full article.
Source: Plan Philly; 2/22/2021

Faster bus service, more regional rail, modern trolleys: Philly’s transit plan takes system to 2045
An ambitious transit plan has been unveiled by Mayor Jim Kenney, SEPTA general manager Leslie Richards and Michael Carroll, the city’s deputy managing director for transportation. Looking 24 years into the future through 2045, the plan presents a detailed — yet still unfunded — vision for a transit system that doesn’t center on 9-5 commuters. Instead, it aims to improve the system while addressing long-standing racial inequities through a redesigned bus network and regional rail service, modernized trolleys, and increased accessibility across the system. “A city connected by transit is the goal,” Carroll said. The new plan imagines the next step as a low-income fare program similar to SEPTA’s senior fare program. The idea — still unfunded and in its early conceptual phases — could be a contender for support via the federal government or the state, the latter which funds the senior fare program with lottery revenue. The plan includes 30 corridors for potential improvements, such as bus lanes, transit priority signals and boarding islands to speed up bus service. The ideas will be vetted through the redesign process SEPTA recently began. The agency still doesn’t have a price tag attached to its plans, but that should come as proposals sharpen into focus.
Source: Plan Philly; 2/22/2021

 
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