CITY COUNCILMEMBERS TAKE ACTION ON FILLING THE URGENT NEED FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The need for affordable housing in Philadelphia is always near the top of City Council’s agenda. This week, Councilmembers broke ground in South Philadelphia on the first of 1,000 affordable homes to be built under Council’s “Turn The Key” Affordable Home-ownership Program. Then before Council met on Thursday, Members unveiled legislation offering tax exemptions in exchange for more affordable housing in North Philadelphia.
In Grays Ferry on Monday, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) led a groundbreaking with Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) that began the construction of 25 affordable homes for sale near 30th and Wharton Streets, as part of the Turn The Key program financed by Council’s $400 Million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative.
In Grays Ferry, Councilmember Johnson said, market-rate homes are being built and sold for $500,000 or more – far out of the reach of ordinary Philadelphia residents. However, through NPI’s Turn The Key program, new, affordable, three-bedroom homes will be built and sold for $230,000. And, with a second mortgage affordability initiative as part of the program, qualifying homebuyers will be able to access a loan of up to $75,000 that will further drive down the home’s sale price, making the homes affordable for working Philadelphians and their families.
“I am happy that the groundbreaking of the first 25 homes to be built under ‘Turn the Key’ will be built in Grays Ferry in the Second District,” Johnson said. “These will be the first of 1,000 affordable homes to be built across Philadelphia over the next several years. Philadelphia has experienced a development boom in recent years, and it is important to make sure that we make housing available for citizens of Philadelphia – regardless of their checkbook or pocketbook. I thank Council President Clarke and my colleagues for passing legislation to make this affordable home ownership program a reality.”
More groundbreakings under the Turn The Key program are planned for other neighborhoods and Council districts in the coming weeks and months.
COUNCILMEMBERS INTRODUCE BILL CREATING TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALONG NORTH BROAD STREET CORRIDOR
Before Council’s Thursday Meeting, Council President Clarke and Councilmember Cindy Bass held a news conference with a state legislator and several advocates to announce new legislation to offer tax exemptions as an inducement for developers to build more affordable housing along the North Broad Street Corridor.
Under the legislation that Councilmember Bass introduced on President Clarke’s behalf, the area eligible for the tax abatement, in exchange for a commitment to build affordable housing, has as its boundaries:
“The area bounded by John F. Kennedy Blvd., 15th Street, Roosevelt Boulevard, Old York Road, Pike Street, 13th Street, Germantown Avenue, Ontario Street, 13th Street, Clearfield Street, 12th Street, Glenwood Avenue, 13th Street, Spring Garden Street, and Broad Street…”
The legislation targets blighted areas in the 5th and 8th Council Districts, and was introduced pursuant to the Affordable Housing Unit Tax Exemption Act, sponsored by PA Rep. Jared Solomon (202nd) and approved by the Legislature.
Rep. Solomon’s legislation authorizes “local taxing authorities to provide for tax exemptions for improvements to deteriorated areas and dwellings to incentivize the creation and improvement of affordable housing units.”
Affordable housing is defined in the bill as:
“Affordable housing unit.” (1) A multi-unit residential dwelling where at least 30% of the residential units meet all of the following: (i) Are rent-restricted. (ii) Are occupied by an individual or family whose income is not more than 60% of area median income. (2) The term includes single family residences that are subject to deed restrictions and occupied by an individual or family whose income is not more than 60% of the area median gross income.
Council President Clarke said at a news conference Thursday morning the Council bill could be viewed as a starting point, and further expansions of the tax incentive for affordable housing were likely.
“We’re grateful for Rep. Solomon’s work on a statewide level to bring us to this day and this legislation to generate more affordable housing for Philadelphia residents in the 5th and 8th Districts as well,” said Council President Clarke.
“Today we work together – City and State — to use every tool possible to create more affordable housing in the City and across our Commonwealth,” Rep. Solomon said. “By doing so, we send a message to all Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians – decent, safe housing is a fundamental right.”
“Philadelphia residents in too many communities are being priced out of home ownership or rentals,” Councilmember Bass said. “They’re facing gentrification — a consequence of luxury housing developments that oftentimes have been built without any consideration of current neighbors’ needs. It is fitting that Council President’s legislation zeroes in on a specific portion of North Broad Street. The location, which partially includes my district, deserves revitalization and stabilization. This can be best achieved through the tax exemptions this legislation provides, which I believe will incentivize the growth of housing our constituents can afford.”
Council President Clarke and Councilmember Bass were joined by Maria Gonzalez, President of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations and a longtime advocate for affordable housing. Also attending in support: Habitat for Humanity, the Building Industry Association, and the Oxford Circle Christian CDC.
COUNCILMEMBER GAUTHIER INTRODUCES HOUSING-FOCUSED LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE
At the final Council Meeting of 2022, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) took steps to preserve and create affordable housing. This included receiving final approval for her “Public Land for Public Benefit” bill, which puts City-owned land in the community’s hands, and introducing the “People’s Preservation Package”. The People’s Preservation Package:
- Requires property owners to give notice of their intention to sell their affordable housing property to other affordable housing developers and community groups.
- Requires property owners to give other affordable housing providers the opportunity to buy an expiring affordable housing development.
- Authorizes the City to create a directory of all affordable housing properties in Philadelphia, their funding stream, and when their funding expires.
- Authorizes the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless to conduct hearings regarding discrimination against households holding tenant-based vouchers.
“As rents and home values skyrocket, we need to take innovative and proactive steps to preserve and increase Philadelphia’s affordable housing stock,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “When I assumed office, I pledged to empower long- term residents to remain in the neighborhoods their families have called home for generations. Today, I am continuing to make good on that promise through my Public Land for Public Benefit ordinance and People’s Preservation Package.”
Councilmember Gauthier’s Public Land for Public Benefit legislation creates a path in the 3rd and 4th Districts for community-controlled, permanently affordable housing and urban gardens on City-owned land. Community Land Trusts will receive additional scoring on unsolicited applications for City vacant land and can opt into a multi-year lease to allow more time for fundraising and community engagement while getting the land into community stewardship quickly.
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— Brian J. O’Neill (@ONeill4NEPhilly) December 15, 2022
COUNCIL APPROVES REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROTECTIONS
City Council gave final approval this week to the “Reproductive Freedom Platform”, a package of bills that extends protections to anyone who receives or provides reproductive healthcare in Philadelphia. The legislation, introduced by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Gauthier, and former Councilmember Helen Gym, was passed during the year’s final session, ensuring Philadelphia remains one of the safest cities in the nation for patients and providers of reproductive healthcare services.
“As the elected representatives of this city, we cannot stand idly by and let legislators in faraway states control what goes on here in Philadelphia,” said Councilmember Gauthier. “This is a public health issue. We need to protect the safety of all birthing persons, babies, and children in Philadelphia, regardless of whether they call this city home, by strengthening their right to privacy when accessing reproductive healthcare.”
“When the Dobbs decision came down, we saw the rage and sorrow of a city that refused to have their autonomy threatened out in the streets,” said Councilmember Brooks. “We marched in step with a diverse, broad movement that demanded a future defined not by shame, stigma, and hatred, but by freedom — the freedom to control your body, your family, and the course of your life. That’s why our City Council will do everything in our power to protect our constituents, our healthcare providers, and anyone who chooses to travel to our city to receive reproductive care. Healthcare is a human right.”
The legislative package contains:
- Bill No. 220664, introduced by Councilmember Brooks, updates Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to prevent workplace discrimination against an employee for reproductive healthcare decisions—including abortion care, fertility assistance, and birth control.
- Bill No. 220665, introduced by Councilmember Gauthier, would deter the use of “Texas vigilante” style laws that subject patients, helpers, or providers to civil liability for abortion services that are legal in PA, by permitting Philadelphians to countersue.
- Bill No. 220656, introduced by former Councilmember Gym, bars the disclosure of reproductive healthcare information when the person doing the disclosure knows or should know that the information will be used for the purposes of abusive litigation or harassment.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Council President Clarke had legislation introduced creating a new Committee on Neighborhood Services. The new Committee on Neighborhood Services will focus on issues of public safety, litter, graffiti, street and alley trees, broken sidewalks and potholes, snow-removal, street and alley lights, access to and physical condition of recreation, parks and other municipal facilities, nuisance businesses and abandoned vehicles and other matters.
The Council President also had a resolution introduced authorizing Council’s Committee on Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation to hold hearings to discuss the status of the City’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lastly, the Council President Clarke had a resolution introduced that authorizes the creation of a “Special Committee on Retention and Recruitment of Municipal Workers” to analyze and recommend ways to modernize the City’s hiring procedures; recommend strategies to retain current City workers; and recruit new workers by, to the greatest extent possible, hiring City residents.
Council approves legislation authorizing fines for involvement in illicit catalytic converter sales. The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Bass, will require auto parts dealers to document any catalytic converter part’s origins; prohibit the sale of partial catalytic converters; and stiffen fines and penalties for stealing, buying or selling stolen catalytic converters or other precious metal auto parts, including a $2,000 fine per violation, 90 days’ imprisonment, or both.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Room 400 and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
Featured Photo: Elevated Angles for Visit Philadelphia