OUR OPINION: Housing For All

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NEW MARKET-RATE housing at 2nd & Wharton will reinhabit an aging neighborhood – and bring middle-income taxpayers to support city services. Photo courtesy Naked Philly.

NEW MARKET-RATE housing at 2nd & Wharton will reinhabit an aging neighborhood – and bring middle-income taxpayers to support city services. Photo courtesy Naked Philly.

Location, location, location.

Philadelphia’s biggest problem is also its greatest asset: underused real estate where people are neither living nor working. Our 40,000 abandoned lots help nobody. As a city, we should sell as much of this land as possible, as fast as possible. Much of our inner city is now salable at market rate. Grab it while we can, should be our motto.

But we should try to retain working-class neighborhoods close to the Center City job hub. For this reason we welcome the initiative of City Council President Darrell Clarke and the Building Trades Council to seek $681 million in untapped state and federal funding for 1,500 affordable housing units.

Mixed-income neighborhoods are a good way for a city to go. Public policy should favor the retention of low-income housing within easy reach of Center City, where the jobs are these days.

But it is a fact that Philadelphia is among the poorest big cities. And the poor cannot pay the taxes to fund all their needs.

Therefore the city needs to entice as many non-poor people as possible to settle in it, as soon as possible. New market-rate housing must remain the engine of urban revitalization here. Frankly, the city has lost too many middle-class neighborhoods and needs to grow some new ones in a hurry.

Any efforts to curb neighborhood revitalization risk killing this baby in its crib. Patient work to nurture rebirth is the winning play for neighborhood leaders of all classes. We urge this clever campaign for affordable housing to work in tandem with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and City Planning Commission to preserve as many parcels as possible that are suitable for market-rate development while they assemble affordable-housing projects.

Is our political class up to this challenge?

CITY COUNCIL President Darrell Clarke joins a bevy of labor and union officials, City Council members and housing development experts at City Hall on Monday to announce plan to build 1,500 affordable-housing units in gentrifying neighborhoods.

CITY COUNCIL President Darrell Clarke joins a bevy of labor and union officials, City Council members and housing development experts at City Hall on Monday to announce plan to build 1,500 affordable-housing units in gentrifying neighborhoods.

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