Nov 3, 2021 - News

Parking concerns threaten Philadelphia affordable housing project

Illustration of ripped up blueprints.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

An affordable housing complex project in North Philadelphia has stalled after City Council President Darrell Clarke blocked a resolution allowing Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to acquire the land.

Why it matters: Philadelphia has an affordable housing crisis. Four in 10 Philadelphia households are cost-burdened, spending at least 30% of their income on housing costs, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Driving the news: Clarke's recent decision to hold the sign-off on the nonprofit's ability to enter into a redevelopment contract for the project follows several neighbors' complaints.

  • "Neighborhood residents' voices matter too, both in this case and across Philadelphia. We will continue to carefully assess this matter," Clarke's spokesperson Joe Grace said.

State of play: Habitat for Humanity wants to redevelop seven single-family, affordable homes at 1604-1616 Page Street, which would take over a parking lot across the street from another project the nonprofit completed.

  • Habitat was set to begin building this month, with the project slated to be completed by the end of June 2022. But that timeline is now up in the air without Clarke's approval.
  • The income range for the homes would be between 30-80% of the area median income.

Of note: Philadelphia has councilmanic prerogative, which means each of the city's 10 district councilmembers has nearly all power over development projects in their districts.

  • It's not a law or a charter, but rather a tradition. And it's not common for other councilmembers to step in.

What they're saying: Queen Judith Robinson, a neighbor, said residents have used the small parking lot for decades. She warned that removing it could particularly affect older neighbors with mobility issues who rely on the parking spaces.

  • "Now here comes Habitat with their flowery mission ... adding more housing to an area that already has parking problems," Robinson said.

The other side: Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia CEO Corinne O'Connell acknowledged that "parking is a citywide challenge," but she said, "Habitat does not exist to solve the city's parking issue."

  • She also mentioned that it's not uncommon to hear neighbors worry about density and historic overlays — planning tools to protect the historic character of neighborhoods.

What's next: It remains unclear if or when Clarke will bring the resolution back up for a final vote.

  • Grace told Axios he doesn't know when it will come up again.

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