Mar 11, 2024 - News

Scoop: Parker administration cancels planned tiny house village

Photo illustration of Cherelle Parker with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Sanctuary Village officials tell Axios that Mayor Cherelle Parker's administration has pulled the plug on a project to provide tiny houses for those experiencing homelessness.

Why it matters: The pivot sheds light on how the new Parker administration is distancing itself from the policies of former Mayor Jim Kenney.

State of play: The city this month informed the nonprofit Sanctuary Village, which was selected in 2021 to build the city's first-ever tiny house community in Northeast Philly, that the project would not move forward, the group's board president Cathy Farrell tells Axios.

  • "The mayor does not want to pursue this project," Farrell recalled acting city solicitor Renee Garcia telling her on the phone.

The other side: "This is an ongoing legal matter that we cannot comment on," Parker spokesperson Joe Grace tells Axios.

  • A spokesperson for Councilmember Mike Driscoll, whose 6th District is where the tiny village was planned, also declined to comment.

Flashback: The previous mayoral administration pledged to build two tiny house communities in late 2020 in an agreement with activists to end a monthslong homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

A rendering of Sanctuary Village’s tiny house community proposed for Northeast Philadelphia.
A rendering of Sanctuary Village's proposed tiny house community for Northeast Philly. Rendering courtesy of Harman Deutsch Ohler Architecture

What was planned: Sanctuary Village planned to build as many as 28 units — measuring 12-by-8 feet each — without plumbing, along with shared spaces for bathrooms, cooking and storage on city-owned land in Holmesburg near Pennypack Park.

  • The project would have created rent-free, transitional housing for women ages 55 and up, with social services and transportation provided.

Meanwhile, it's unclear whether a second tiny house village is moving forward.

  • The second plan from Mosaic Development Partners includes permanent housing for at least 26 seniors experiencing homelessness in West Philly.
  • The developer did not respond to requests for comment, but its website says the project is "under development."

Context: Homelessness in Philly rose for the second year in a row in 2023 when more than 4,700 people were without housing.

  • The city's poverty rate (21.7%) remains the highest among big U.S. cities.

Behind the scenes: Sanctuary Village says it had already sunk at least $200,000 into the pilot project, which was supposed to break ground last year.

  • Farrell says the timeline for the more than $1 million project kept getting pushed back as the nonprofit ironed out details with the Kenney administration.

The intrigue: Farrell says the Parker administration's decision to cancel the project was unexpected, considering a bid to complete site work for the project through PHDC was issued in January.

What they're saying: "We are sorry that we will not be moving forward with this in Holmesburg as we had planned, but we will use our knowledge and this model and do it someplace else as quickly as we can," Farrell said.

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