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Mike D'Onofrio
6 hours ago - News

Philadelphia police brass sticks by anti-violence strategy

The Philadelphia Police Department headquarters
The Philadelphia Police Department headquarters. Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

Philly's top cop is sticking by the city's anti-violence plan as homicides remain on track to reach an all-time high by year's end.

Driving the news: Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday that the department has seen a steady decline in homicides recently after "pretty high spikes" earlier in the year.

  • "We know that our strategies are working," she said during the city's gun violence update. "We have to continually assess and then tweak in areas where we know some things may not be as effective."
Taylor Allen
6 hours ago - News

Pennsylvania sees most animal-related collision claims in nation

Data: State Farm; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Drivers are more likely to hit an animal with their vehicle in Pennsylvania than most other places in the country.

Driving the news: The state ranks fifth in the nation for collisions between cars and animals, State Farm data shows.

  • The likelihood of hitting an animal is one in 54.

Mural Arts Philadelphia to dedicate new mural "Declaration"

The mural “Declaration” is seen here on a building in North Philadelphia of a woman of color with the Declaration of Independence imposed over her face.
The mural "Declaration," seen from Race Street on the building located at 150 N Broad St. Photo courtesy of Steve Weinik/Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

North Philly's got some new ink.

What's happening: Mural Arts Philadelphia is holding a dedication ceremony today for "Declaration," one of its newest and largest murals.

  • It's painted on the west side of the parking garage at 150 N Broad Street.
Taylor Allen
6 hours ago - COVID

Around 65% of Philadelphia city employees vaccinated

Illustration of a syringe moving up and to the right like an upward trending arrow.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Roughly 65% of the city's employees are fully vaccinated, as of Tuesday — below the city average of 71%.

  • Vaccination rates by department will be released later Thursday.

Why it matters: It's been almost two months since Philly's early September deadline for its workers to get vaccinated passed. Yet up until last week, only a third had shown proof of vaccination.

Cider Week kicks off in Philadelphia

Flights of hard cider sit on a countertop.
Flights of hard cider. Photo courtesy of Hale & True Cider Co.

Amy Hartranft is spreading the gospel of hard cider through Philly Cider Week.

What's happening: The annual event kicked off Tuesday and runs through Sunday.

  • Bars and restaurants throughout the city are hosting programming highlighting Pennsylvania cideries.

What she's saying: Hartranft, the director of the annual event, told Mike she started Cider Week after discovering a lack of hard cider options in the city.

  • The goal is to get more hard cider into the hands of people and to help them understand that ciders are agricultural projects. 
  • "There's somebody tilling the ground to make that happen for you," Hartranft said.

Check out the full list of events here.

What's driving the dip in Philadelphia's affordable housing

A view of red brick row houses of Philadelphia.
A view of red brick row houses of Philadelphia. Photo: Joe Sohm/Getty Images

Are tenant protections put in place during the pandemic leading to a decrease of affordable housing in Philadelphia?

What's happening: Drexel University economist Kevin Gillen told Axios that anecdotal evidence suggests the supply of low-income and moderate-income rental housing in Philly is trending downward.

  • Small landlords own the bulk of the city's affordable rental stock. And many have been selling their units, upgrading them to charge higher rents or are being more selective when choosing tenants, like requiring higher credit scores, according to the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO).
  • Gillen said this reduces the supply of affordable rental housing in the city.

By the numbers: 1,812 single family rental properties were converted from renter-occupied to owner-occupied between January 2020 and August 2021, Gillen said.

  • Of note: Nearly 21% of Philly landlords listed properties for sale in 2020 — a steep increase from 3.5% in 2019, according to an August report from researchers that included the University of Pennsylvania's Housing Initiative at Penn.

What they're saying: Gillen blamed the expired eviction moratoriums and the city's Eviction Diversion Program, which requires landlords and tenants to resolve issues through mediation. (The program also mandates a 45-day wait period for landlords to seek a court eviction order.)

  • "The moratorium may have been well-intentioned … but it's having some very regressive effects," he said.

Greg Wertman, president of HAPCO, told Axios that the pandemic, expired eviction moratoriums and new tenant protections have reduced rent collections and hurt small landlords.

  • "It's always the little guy who's getting hurt," said Wertman, whose group represents approximately 1,600 small landlords, most of whom have one or two units.

The other side: Councilperson Helen Gym, who spearheaded the Eviction Diversion Program, called Gillen's claims linking the program to a drop in affordable housing "ridiculous" and baseless.

  • Gym also noted that the local eviction moratorium ended in August 2020. The federal moratorium expired in August of this year.

Between the lines: Emily Dowdall, policy director at the Reinvestment Fund, said in an email that there are several market forces at play encouraging landlords to sell rather than rent.

  • Low interest rates during the pandemic created an advantage for new homeowners, and a city-funded initiative during this time helped moderate-income households move to homeownership.

Dowdall added that housing has become less affordable because home prices rose faster than incomes during the pandemic.

  • Philadelphia home prices jumped nearly 13% over 2020, while incomes were up 7.3%, she said.
  • "Rising sale prices can make the prospect of selling one's rental property more appealing," she added.
Taylor Allen
Oct 27, 2021 - News

Philly moves to equip officers with Tasers year after Wallace's killing

A demonstrator holding placard during a protest near the location where Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by two police officers on Oct. 26, 2020. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest near where Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by two officers. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

One year after the fatal Philadelphia police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., the city moved to equip and train all patrol officers with Tasers.

Of note: The effort will cost $14 million, but the funds were already approved in the city budget earlier this year.

  • "It is our belief, and the sincere hope of the Wallace family that these measures will save lives," Shaka Johnson and Kevin O'Brien, attorneys for the Wallace family, said in a statement to Axios.
Mike D'Onofrio
Oct 26, 2021 - News

SEPTA unveils service interruption plan in case of strike

SEPTA buses sit idle.
SEPTA buses sit idle at the transit agency's Frankford Transportation Center in 2005. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

SEPTA has unveiled its service interruption plan in the event of a strike should ongoing union contract negotiations fall flat.

Why it matters: If SEPTA workers represented by Transport Workers Union Local 234 (TWU) walk off the job, thousands of residents would be without reliable service to get where they need to go.