WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCILMEMBERS PUT AFFORDABLE HOUSING FRONT AND CENTER WITH “TURN THE KEY” PROGRAM ANNOUNCEMENT

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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COUNCIL, CITY OFFICIALS UNVEIL “TURN THE KEY” PROGRAM TO BUILD 1,400 AFFORDABLE HOMES THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION INITIATIVE

Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), joined by Councilmembers, housing officials and advocates, announced the single largest development of affordable housing in Philadelphia history – 1,000 affordable homes to be built across the city.

“Turn The Key”, the Philadelphia Affordable Homeownership Program, is being funded through the $400 million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative (NPI) program created by City Council in 2020.

Turn The Key and NPI will provide funding to build more than 1,000 new, energy-efficient, 3 bedroom, 1 ½ bath homes on publicly-owned city land.  Requests for Proposals have already been issued to develop homes, and RFPs will continue to be issued on a rolling basis until 1,000 homes are built and sold to qualifying homebuyers.

The mortgage for these 3-bedroom homes will be about $1,200 per month – much less than the median monthly rent of $1,700 for a 2-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia.

“Today is the beginning of a new era in affordable homeownership in Philadelphia,” said Council President Clarke, at a news conference at 55th and Poplar Streets in West Philadelphia. “With funds from the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative and publicly-owned city land, we’re launching the largest development of affordable housing in city history. We’re selecting developers to build at least 1,000 affordable new homes for ownership.”

Clarke was joined at the news conference by an array of public officials and advocates, including a quorum of City Council, the city’s top housing official, a municipal employees’ union leader, and advocates for affordable housing.

“The City’s Department of Planning and Development and PHDC are proud to partner with Council President Clarke to build these homes,” said Anne Fadullon, the Kenney administration’s Director of Department of Planning and Development. “We are looking forward to working together to create these pathways for families to build generational wealth and receive other benefits that come from homeownership.” Fadullon said 41 homes would be built on the two city-owned lots in West Philadelphia where the press conference took place.

Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr., who represents the 4th District said “The biggest investment most people make in one’s lifetime, is in their home. It’s an asset that should always appreciate but in its initial phases, be affordable as well.”

Clarke and Jones were joined by Councilmembers Cherelle Parker, Mark Squilla, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Derek Green, Helen Gym and Jamie Gauthier.

The Mortgage Affordability Aspect of Turn The Key 

To make these homes affordable to households that are at or below 80% of Area Median Income, NPI funds will be used to provide first-time homebuyers a soft loan. Under the program, soft loans of up to $75,000 (subject to buyer’s household income) will be made available to buy down the cost of the new homes. These loans will be secured through a second mortgage on the property. The term of the loan will be for up to 30 years, with a portion of the loan forgiven over time. By year 30, the loan will be completely forgiven.

To be eligible, first-time homebuyers must have not previously owned a home or owned a home in the last three years, be income-certified and complete a free, city-funded homeownership counseling program before signing an Agreement of Sale.

Turn The Key will also include a preference given to income-qualified City of Philadelphia employees – legislation pending in Council.

“Public servants are our city’s greatest asset,” said Ernest Garrett, President, District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “With the creation of this program, many of those individuals will have the opportunity to own a home — for the first time in their lives — thanks to Council President Clarke, all of City Council and city housing officials.”

COUNCILMEMBER GREEN CONTINUES CIVICS AGENDA WITH WHISTLEBLOWER LEGISLATION, PROPOSED REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

Councilmember Derek Green this week introduced the second half of his “Civics Legislative Agenda,” a package of bills that seeks to encourage greater civic engagement, participation among Philadelphians and promote good government.  A continuation of a set of bills introduced earlier this year, this latest package proposes:

  • A charter change proposal that would, if approved by voters, create a Redistricting Commission after each federal Census to solicit public input regarding the composition of Council districts, propose new district boundaries to City Council, and produce a report regarding its decision-making process and methods.
  • A bill revising and extending retaliatory protections for individuals – or “whistleblowers” – who file complaints with or seek advice from the Board of Ethics.
  • A bill recommending technical changes and cleaning up of language related to the Code’s section for “Political Contributions and Expenditures.”

With midterm elections under way and the May Primary approaching, Green said his civics agenda aims to reiterate the importance of having a voice in the political process and practicing civic engagement. As the City’s electorate grows – following a disappointing turnout of just 21.8% of voters in last November’s election – the need to build trust of and increase participation within the local political process is more essential than ever, Green said.

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Ongoing Council Budget Hearings Examine Law Enforcement Agencies. Front and center this past week in Council’s ongoing city budget process were hearings to take testimony from the Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office on their proposed budgets for FY2023.

A common thread among each budget presentation by the three offices was the need for more funding – to better fight crime on Philadelphia’s streets, to hire more prosecutors to bring cases, and to pay assistant defenders and support staff more equitably in comparison to higher salaries in the DA’s Office.

With shootings and homicides in Philadelphia continuing to hover near a record pace, many Councilmembers sought more assurances from Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and District Attorney Larry Krasner as to what specifically each of their offices and departments are doing to reduce and prevent violent crime.

“We need help,” DA Krasner testified before Council. “We need you to understand how vitally important it is that our attorneys are compensated.”

Council President Clarke, Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker and other members spoke of their residents’ fears and frustrations over gunfire echoing night after night, and a general unease that their neighborhoods are growing less safe.

“We’re not laying this all in your lap,” Clarke told the DA, “but you’re the chief law enforcement officer of the City of Philadelphia. We need a sense that you understand what our residents out in neighborhoods are talking about – the feeling of being safe.”

The next date for Council’s ongoing budget hearings is Tuesday, May 3, when Council will consider the proposed budgets of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Mural Arts Program. The hearings start at 10 am.  On Wednesday, May 4, budget hearings will with the School District of Philadelphia and Community College of Philadelphia. Later on May 4, the public will have the opportunity to testify on the School District’s proposed budget. The dates and times for all budget hearings can be found in the FY2023 Budget Schedule at www.PHLCouncil.com/Budget2023

The public can view Council”s Budget Hearings on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and streaming at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Rules 4-25-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Philadelphia Police Department 4-26-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – District Attorney, Defender Association, Sheriff 4-26-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Register of Wills, Controller 4-27-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Licenses and Inspections, Water Department 4-27-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 4-28-2022

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

Featured Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

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