Dec 21, 2021 - News

PHA and housing activists to show first homes from encampment deal

A sign is displayed near a homeless encampment in Philadelphia. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP
A sign is displayed near a homeless encampment in Philadelphia. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Residents will move Tuesday into seven rehabilitated North Philadelphia homes that are part of a new community land trust formed after housing protests last year.

Why it matters: More than 4,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.

  • Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO Kelvin Jeremiah said "every little bit counts" to combat the city's homeless and affordable housing crises.

Catch up fast: PHA struck an agreement with homeless encampment leaders in October 2020 to end protests that blocked the construction of a $52 million shopping center and housing complex in the Sharswood neighborhood by the agency's headquarters.

  • Leaders of the Camp Teddy encampment negotiated the community land trust, and nine homes to be transferred into it, as part of the agreement.
  • The deal also resulted in the clearing out of the encampment, which started in June 2020.

Details: The seven homes that will be celebrated later today were rehabbed with PHA funding.

  • The land trust is responsible for the remaining two.

Between the lines: The negotiations took place around the same time representatives of a separate encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway struck an agreement with the city and PHA to transfer 50 vacant homes to a community land trust.

  • PHA promised 25, and the city promised the other half and two tiny home villages.

What they're saying: "What started out as a very contentious issue for all parties, including the city and the encampment leaders, turned out to be something that allowed us to work constructively together," Jeremiah said of the Camp Teddy deal.

Tumar Alexander, managing director of the city, said in a statement to Axios that "these new homes are a testament to the vision and dedication of our partners who have helped us reimagine housing solutions in Philadelphia."

  • Jennifer Bennetch, founder of the Philadelphia Community Land Trust and a leader of both encampments, declined to comment.

What's next: The city and PHA still need to transfer the 50 homes for the second agreement.

  • PHA told Axios it identified 25 properties and expects to complete the transfer within the next several months.
  • The city said it has not yet identified or transferred the properties but is in the process of developing the two tiny house villages in West and Northeast Philly.
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