Pennsylvania Treasurer Catherine Baker Knoll yesterday announced a five-year, $50 million program designed to meet the housing needs of the state's low-income families.

Ms. Knoll announced the kick-off of the State Treasury Employment/Housing Program at a press conference at the Capital Rotunda in Harrisburg. The new plan is part of the state's "Save Our Cities" program.

The $50 million program will be structured as a private placement general obligation loan with five concurrent terms of $10 million, said Michael W. Arpey, general counsel for the treasurer. A sale date has not been chosen, he added.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will administrate the program.

Ms. Knoll, who became state treasurer in 1989, said in a release that the program aims to provide better housing opportunities to underprivileged areas in the state, especially in the inner cities.

"This investment will make good, clean affordable rental housing available to low-income families, particularly to those in our cities," Ms. Knoll said in the release. "It will also stimulate job opportunities for the unemployed who are registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's job centers."

The program is designed to encourage participating developers to make use of the Pennsylvania Job Centers in the areas of proposed construction, and to provide employment to local skilled and unskilled workers who are unemployed and being retrained, Ms. Knoll said.

There are over 90 statewide Job Center offices, according to Mr. Arpey. One major goal of these offices is to retrain unemployed or unskilled labor.

Ms. Knoll decided to proceed with the program six weeks ago, according to Mr. Arpey.

"After the Los Angeles riots, the treasurer convened the group in order to avoid similar problems in our cities," he said. "Ms. Knoll believes that both housing and unemployment were crucial elements that led to the riots."

Mr. Arpey said that all sectors of the housing industry will benefit from the program.

"A developer that uses the program will be looked at much more favorably than one that doesn't," Mr. Arpey said. "The state will be using firms that draw employees from Job Centers."

Tom Foley, Pennsylvania's secretary of labor and industry, said in a release that he was excited about prospects for the program.

"We're proud to be a partner in this important public service venture because it represents a win-win situation for Pennsylvania," Mr. Foley said.

"STEHP is the first program of its kind in America," said Karl Smith, executive director of the housing finance agency. "It is unique because it makes low-income housing more accessible in our cities, while attacking the problem of joblessness that exists in the commonwealth."

"This program is designed to help correct the problems that plague our cities," Ms. Knoll added. "It also represents an excellent investment for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania by yielding 15 basis points over the two-year Treasury note."

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