Feb 23, 2022 - News

North Philly affordable housing project could see a path forward

Illustration of a house with a padlock shackle on the roof in an open position.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An affordable housing project in North Philadelphia could move forward after being stalled for months following neighbors' complaints.

Why it matters: Philadelphia's affordable housing crisis leaves 40% of households cost-burdened, spending at least 30% of their income on housing.

Catch up fast: A Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia project was halted last fall after City Council President Darrell Clarke blocked a resolution allowing the nonprofit to acquire the land.

  • The nonprofit planned to redevelop seven single-family, affordable homes at 1604-1616 Page St., taking over a parking lot across the street from another one of its projects.
  • But Clarke intervened after several neighbors shared concerns about how the project would affect parking in the area.

The path forward: Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia CEO Corinne O'Connell told Axios the nonprofit revised its original plan after negotiating with neighbors and Clarke's office.

  • The project's new design is slated to go to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Board next month for approval.
  • After that, O'Connell hopes the resolution will be reintroduced to City Council and voted on in April, with construction following soon after.

Between the lines: Habitat for Humanity reduced the number of single-family, affordable homes it will redevelop off Page Street to six to get more neighbors on board.

  • Plus: One of the seven families chosen for the homes dropped out, O'Connell said. But she noted the reasoning wasn't because of the previous dispute.

Of note: The project's future homeowners make anywhere from 30% to 60% of the area median income. For a family of four, that ranges from $28,350 to $56,700.

What they're saying: Rashona Gaines, who lives across the street from the proposed project, said she still has reservations and hopes some of the parking lot can stay.

  • She works long hours in retail and doesn't want to park farther away because she worries about her safety at night with the rise of both gun violence and carjackings.
  • "We already have a Habitat for Humanity project across the street, and there's nowhere to park," Gaines said. "We're not selfish."

John Landis, an urban development professor at Penn, told Axios parking concerns can be well-founded since Philly overhauled its zoning code in 2012, emphasizing reforms that were more friendly to pedestrians, transit and development than to cars.

  • "Nobody seems to want affordable housing in their communities," he said. "Everybody thinks it's great in theory, but when you get down to putting it in your neighborhood, it's often very difficult to support."

What to watch: Joe Grace, a spokesperson for Clarke, said that "negotiations are still ongoing," but he's hopeful that "a resolution acceptable to all parties is still very much within reach."

  • He didn't confirm if Clarke expects to reintroduce the resolution in April.

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