"The Lynchpin for Social Justice": A Q&A With the New Kensington CDC on Affordable Housing - Generocity Philly

Jun. 10, 2014 11:52 am

“The Lynchpin for Social Justice”: A Q&A With the New Kensington CDC on Affordable Housing

Rendering of Awesometown mixed-income development, project of NKCDC The New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) was established in 1985 to address the housing needs of residents living in Kensington, Fishtown and parts of Port Richmond. It did this by rehabilitating old houses and offering counseling services to home buyers. The organization’s role has evolved to […]

Generocity talked with NKCDC’s Diana Jih, community relations specialist, and Kevin Gray, real estate development director, about ongoing affordable housing development, collaboration and community engagement.

Rendering of Awesometown mixed-income development, project of NKCDC


The New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) was established in 1985 to address the housing needs of residents living in Kensington, Fishtown and parts of Port Richmond. It did this by rehabilitating old houses and offering counseling services to home buyers.

The organization’s role has evolved to also include cultural programming and commercial corridor management, but housing remains the core of its mission. Generocity talked with NKCDC’s Diana Jih, community relations specialist, and Kevin Gray, real estate development director, about affordable housing development, collaboration and community engagement.

1. Could you briefly explain New Kensington CDC’s current role in affordable housing development?

Diana Jih: From 2010 until this year, NKCDC has partnered with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) to participate in the federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program (see description below), which rehabs vacant, foreclosed homes and
offers them for sale to income-eligible home-buyers. The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was established for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment and targets specific neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Other notable real estate projects have included Coral Street Arts House in 2007, which was a product of NKCDC’s commitment to arts in our community. Coral Street was a $7.5 million project combining low-income housing and artist live/work space.

For the Awesometown, Moyer St. Townhome project, NKCDC partnered with Postgreen Homes to redevelop a former industrial site into a unique mixed-income residential development comprised of 14 sustainable townhomes seeking the highest LEED certification. Ten townhomes are available at full market rate through Postgreen Homes. The four remaining homes will be subsidized with private financing and the sale of the ten market-rate units through a public/private partnership—a unique model for affordable housing in the City of Philadelphia. (Read more here)

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2. What are some of the lessons NKCDC has learned about the development process, from engaging the community to working with partners?

Jih: Nothing gets done or is sustainable without community engagement and strong partnerships. You can’t address housing needs without understanding what kind of homes people actually want to live in and what challenges residents face in terms of keeping their homes, paying off their utility bills, etc. Our list of partners on federal, state, and city levels is immense. They not only fund a lot of the valuable work we do, but help us stay up to date on the ever changing landscape of programs and funds for residents seeking affordable housing or trying to keep their homes when challenged with foreclosure, property taxes, repairs, and utility payments.

3. What have you learned about the demand for affordable housing within NKCDC’s target area?

Jih: We’ve learned from active residents and partnership with local civic associations that there is certainly a great need for affordable options as the property values in portions of our service area go up.

4. Where is the demand most intense?

Kevin Gray: The 19134 portion of our service area has the lowest amount of homeownership compared to the southern portion of our service area, but demand for homes varies. Fishtown and East Kensington are extremely popular neighborhoods for home ownership at the moment.

5. Diana, you recently returned from a summit on affordable housing offered by the NeighborWorks Training Institute. What are some of your takeaways?

Jih: Community buy-in, leveraging investments, and partnerships are key. The leader of the neighborhood association in the Shelby Park neighborhood of Louisville is a long-time partner of the New Directions housing agency, which was one of the NeighborWorks Organizations (see description below) hosting/touring folks at the conference through their sites. It was clear that he values his partnership with the housing agency by offering to show visiting organizations the work he’s doing. That work included getting buyers interested and established through the NSP program. One NSP homeowner was home as we were walking on their block and invited 30 strangers into her backyard. Good will and friendly neighbors felt real and valued by the organization.

6. What would you say is least understood about affordable housing?

Jih: I think it’s importance as the lynchpin for social justice and holistic, sustainable community development.

Gray: There’s also the misconception about who lives in affordable housing. Affordable housing runs the gamut on income levels and populations from the very poor to middle class and all races. It’s important to understand that affordable housing is key to building stronger and more economically diverse communities and is not simply housing for the poorest of the poor but all ranges.


Further Information 

  • The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, referenced in question #1, was established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The primary goal of the bill was to provide new 30-year fixed rate mortgages for subprime borrowers, but it also allocated funds for the purchase and rehabilitation of foreclosed homes through local partners.
  • NeighborWorks America, referenced in question #5, is a national community development organization with a membership of 235 independent community development organizations. NeighborWorks provides technical support, grants and programmatic support to its membership.

Answers were edited for length 

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