Friday, July 15, 2005

Improving housing in Philadelphia

Two stories indicating good news for housing in Philadelphia and for the city's future:
  1. Governor Rendell signed a bill that will set up a trust fund in the city to help with improvement of housing in poor areas. The fund had been approved by City Council, but required tweaking of a state law before it could be put into action.
    The fund will be used by nonprofit community development groups to build housing for low-income people, such as a family of four with an annual income of $20,000 or less. It also will be used to construct homes for moderate-income people, such as a family of four with an annual income of $78,000.

    The money also will be used to provide grants for home repair, for adapting housing for the disabled, and for providing emergency payments for rent, mortgage and utility bills.
    A starting chunk of funds for the program will come from Mayor Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, with subsequent funding to come from doubling the sums charged to record deeds and process mortgages in the city.

  2. Meanwhile, it appears that neighborhoods where the NTI or Philadelphia Housing Authority have undertaken projects (from individual homes to major housing developments) have become hotbeds for private real estate development.
    Two independent studies conducted by Applied Real Estate Analysis, Inc. and Econsult Corp. show that PHA's multi-year real estate development program is bringing increased property value and optimism to formerly distressed neighborhoods. The studies show that property values from 1999 to 2004 have grown by 142 percent, more than 2.5 times the citywide rate of 55 percent.
    PoliticsPhilly looks at these effects and notes that many of those regions were among the biggest population-losers during the 1990s, so if they become desirable neighborhoods again, they may really fuel a turnaround in Philadelphia's fortunes.
Putting these two stories together: if the pattern continues, the synergism between new government investment and subsequent private expansion in troubled areas could mean substantive and exciting improvement in the condition of Philadelphia's neighborhoods and in the lives of its inhabitants.


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