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RELEASE: CITY COUNCIL’S LAW AND GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE SENDS BALLOT QUESTION MANDATING THAT REVENUE GENERATED BY DEVELOPERS BUYING “DENSITY BONUSES” GETS INVESTED BACK INTO NEIGHBORHOODS TO COUNCIL FLOOR

In Council News, Jamie Gauthier, News by Jamie Gauthier

PHILADELPHIA – Today, City Council’s Law & Government Committee sent Bill No. 240061 and Resolution No. 240068 to the Council floor with a favorable recommendation.

If enacted, there shall be submitted for the approval or disapproval of the qualified electors of the City of Philadelphia an amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter that increases the minimum amount that must be appropriated to the Housing Trust Fund in the City’s operating budget each year. If approved, the amount of money the City receives from density bonus “payments in lieu” must be added on top of the mandatory Housing Trust Fund appropriation.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and Homeless said, “I want to thank City Council’s Law & Government Committee for sending my proposed ballot measure to the City Council floor with a favorable recommendation! This charter change would compel the City to fulfill its obligation to spend density bonus payments on affordable housing and other neighborhood stabilization programs. This is a win for good government and a win for our communities.”

Bill No. 240061 and Resolution No. 240068 are eligible for final passage by City Council as soon as Thursday, May 30th. The charter change would appear on the ballot in May 2025.

This ballot measure is cosponsored by Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Minority Whip Nicholas O’Rourke (At-Large), Housing Committee Vice Chair Rue Landau (At-Large), and Appropriations Committee Chair Mark Squilla (1st District).

Philadelphia’s Zoning Code allows developers to build larger than their base zoning would otherwise permit if they voluntarily add components to their development that make it more community-minded or environmentally friendly (“density bonuses”).

There is a density bonus offered for developers who include price-restricted affordable housing in their development, but this density bonus can also be received by submitting a “payment in lieu of providing affordable housing” to the City of Philadelphia.

According to the City Code, these payments are meant to augment the City’s Housing Trust Fund, the primary local funding source used for affordable housing programs and projects. However, not once since this “payment in lieu” option began has these density bonuses led to a proportionate increase in the Housing Trust Fund.

This means that the neighborhoods where overscaled development happen are not receiving the affordable housing benefits they are entitled to, and that affordable housing programs citywide remain underfunded.

If this charter change is enacted, the amount of money the City receives from “payments in lieu” must be added to the Housing Trust Fund the following year as new and additional deposits on top of the City’s other allocation requirements. For example, if there are $5 million worth of density bonus payments in 2024, the FY26 Housing Trust Fund budget must increase by $5 million.

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