City Council President Darrell Clarke announced a plan on Monday for the city to subsidize the construction of 1,500 affordable housing units. The plan calls for 1,000 rental units and 500 ownership units located in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Mantua, Francisville and Point Breeze. Clarke predicts that the units could be finished in the next two to three years, assuming the plan is implemented.
Six District Council members, including Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones, Jannie Blackwell, María Quiñones Sánchez and Cindy Bass, announced their support in a joint statement: “Not enough of the neighborhoods we represent are reaping the benefits of the economic recovery. This City Council is taking a proactive approach to the affordable housing crisis and the widening income gap in Philadelphia.”
The Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council and representatives from nonprofit developers, such as the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha and Universal Companies, expressed their support as well.
Clarke stressed during the conference that Philadelphia has a severe affordable housing shortage. Multiple third party reports support this. A report by the Urban Institute concluded that as of 2012 Philadelphia had just 37 affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. This number was just 11 without the help of federal housing assistance. The share of affordable housing available in Philadelphia without federal aid has diminished by more than half since 2000.
Another report by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve stated that in 2010 there was a shortage of “266,000 rental units affordable and available to extremely low-income (ELI) renter households” in the Third Federal Reserve District, which includes most of Pennsylvania, Delaware and South Jersey. This works out as just 34 affordable units per 100 ELI renter household, lower than Philadelphia’s ratio.
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This gap may be hard to see from within Center City or its outer neighborhoods — where overloaded dumpsters block parking spaces and sidewalks are cut off by construction sites — but Clarke and other City Council members are arguing that it is in these neighborhoods that the city should intervene.
“The 1,500 Affordable Housing Units Initiative is designed to supplement what is clearly an uneven economic recovery,” Clarke said.
Although there is a consensus about the problem, it remains to be seen if Clarke’s plan is feasible. Mayor Nutter has yet to express his support, and at least one local leader is still crunching the numbers.
“LISC is intrigued by the Council President’s proposal,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of Philadelphia LISC. “If our analysis indicates that [Clarke’s] numbers work, we would be uniquely positioned to offer support due to our capacity to deliver debt and tax credit equity.”
Philadelphia LISC and other nonprofit developers have led the charge on affordable housing development in Philadelphia. They have connected projects with an array of federal tax credits and worked closely with the city and the community. If implemented, Clarke’s 1,500 Affordable Homes Initiative could be one of the most expansive affordable housing developments initiated by the city.
For more information on the complicated financial plan underlying the plan, check out the video below or read Plan Philly’s in-depth breakdown of the funding structure.-30-
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