Jan 3, 2022 - News

Housing in Philadelphia: What to watch in 2022

Row homes in the Mt Airy neighborhood. Photo: John Greim/Getty Images

Row homes in the Mt Airy neighborhood. Photo: John Greim/Getty Images

The pandemic put a renewed spotlight on Philadelphia's housing issues. And with COVID-19 protections expiring late last year, pressure to address the city's affordable housing crisis and homelessness could fuel changes in 2022.

Why it matters: Roughly 4,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia, according to city data.

  • And experts say the supply of affordable rental housing is trending downward in the city.

Here's a rundown of four issues we're watching in the world of housing this year:

  • Philly's eviction diversion program: Originally an emergency COVID-19 housing protection, the Philadelphia City Council voted last month to continue the initiative this year. But leaders still have to work out specifics.
  • Right to Counsel: The program guaranteeing legal representation for low-income tenants in eviction court will pilot Feb. 1.
    • The initial roll-out will focus on two ZIP codes with the most need. The areas haven't been chosen yet.
  • Inclusionary zoning: Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez passed a mandatory inclusionary zoning bill last month that would require affordable housing units to be included in large residential projects in parts of West, North and Northeast Philadelphia.
    • If the mayor signs it, the measure would go into effect six months after.
  • Rent aid: Philadelphia has been on the verge of running out of rental assistance for months, and the city is awaiting a response on its request for additional aid from the federal government.
    • More assistance would help both landlords and tenants better navigate eviction diversion.

What they're saying: Nora Lichtash, executive director of Women's Community Revitalization Project, wants the city to prioritize giving some of its publicly owned property to nonprofits that focus on affordable and accessible housing instead of only giving it to market-rate developers.

  • "Our next focus is to focus on land. Land justice is a 2022 issue," Lichtash said.

Of note: Gauthier recently introduced a bill to make it easier for nonprofits to get access to land.

  • The measure calls for initially leasing to those groups for five years while the Philadelphia Land Bank ensures the organizations have the capacity to carry out their projects.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Helen Gym has been pushing for the Right to Counsel pilot since it originally passed in 2019.

  • "Right to Counsel is another critical step forward in making sure we let tenants know their rights in court— where landlords are four times more likely to have legal representation than tenants facing eviction, and women and families of color are disproportionately impacted by harmful evictions," Gym told Axios.

More things to watch: The Philadelphia Housing Authority told Axios it expects to transfer 25 homes to a new community land trust this year, as promised in a 2020 deal with a homeless encampment by Ben Franklin Parkway.


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