Mar 15, 2022 - Real Estate

They bought houses in Philly for $10. A year later, they're developers

A before and after of the kitchen and living room of Zaire Potts' first development project in West Philly. Photo courtesy of Zaire Potts
A before and after look of the kitchen and living room of Zaire Potts' first development project in West Philly. Photo: Courtesy of Zaire Potts

Zaire Potts paid $10 to purchase a single-family home in University City through a lottery system for aspiring developers last year.

  • On March 3, the 32-year-old sold the property for $175,000.

Why it matters: Potts' first home sale is part of Jumpstart Philly's attempt to provide more affordable housing and educate a new generation of developers in Philadelphia.

Catch up fast: Jumpstart partnered with the Philadelphia Housing Authority last year to offer up 10 former PHA properties in need of renovations for $10 each.

  • The houses are primarily in North and West Philadelphia neighborhoods, where there’s a backlog of vacant homes and affordability issues.

How it works: The initiative selects aspiring developers who graduated from the Jumpstart program through a lottery system, and the rehabbed houses cannot be sold for more than $175,000.

  • The buyer's household income is also limited to 80% of the area median income, which translates to about $62,000 for a family of four in Philly.

Between the lines: Properties similar to Potts' are typically listed for around $260,000.

Potts, a carpenter with an associate degree in construction management, told Taylor he'd never developed a home before being chosen to participate in the program.

  • He worked on the property every day, eventually completing the renovations in two months.
  • "This is the beginning of my life changing," Potts said of the project. "Carpentry has always been my passion. The idea of using my creativity and making something from nothing has always made me happy."

Mamadou Ndiaye Jr., who also participated in the program, told Axios he decided to pursue development as a way to encourage economic opportunities for Black communities.

  • Ndiaye closed on his property in North Philly last month, selling to a buyer who had left the area but wanted to return.
  • "We were able to be a resource and help somebody move back into her neighborhood and find a great property," Ndiaye said. "That was the most rewarding part of all."

What's next: Potts hopes to pursue a variety of development projects in the future, but said he wants to focus on affordable housing since he lives in subsidized housing.

  • "I want to give back," he said.
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