Update: Mixed Income Housing Bill Awaits Action in Rules Committee

On Monday, November 28th, City Council’s Committee on Rules listened to 5 hours of testimony on Bill No. 170678, which would create a Mixed Income Housing program in Philadelphia.  The sponsor of the bill, Councilwoman Sanchez, requested that the bill be considered at the next Rules Committee committee meeting on Tuesday, December 5th.  Many Councilmembers expressed serious concern for the lack of affordable homes, change in neighborhoods that threaten lower income residents with displacement, and the need for Council to act. Thanks to all of you who came out and spoke out in support!

Amendments circulated by the Councilwoman the week prior represent a significant compromise as they would limit the bill to zoning districts primarily located in Center City, along the Delaware River waterfront, portions of North and South Broad Streets, portions of University City on or near Market Street, and other scattered parcels throughout the city.  These zoning districts represent the bulk of development activity over the last three years of projects greater than 10 units. The amendments would also give developers more flexibility to comply with the rules. In-lieu payments to the Housing Trust Fund are tiered based on the size of the density bonuses offered, and the bedroom count of the housing units.

PACDC is concerned that neighborhoods where significant development activity is reshaping the community and creating a higher cost of living would not be covered under the proposed amendments.  But we believe the bill represents an important first step, and that a Mixed Income Housing program can be expanded over time.

Councilmembers heard from:

James Wright of People’s Emergency Center who spoke of the need for affordable homes in neighborhoods, “In Mantua – where half of all residents live below the poverty level and where the median income is under $20,000 – housing costs have skyrocketed due to the development of high-density, high-cost housing and the rapid influx of students, young professionals and university staff.”

Corrine O’Connell at Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, who said, “We cannot afford to continue to bifurcate our neighborhoods – further creating a tale of two cities.  This will take a thoughtful balance of creation of on-site units when possible with payments to the Housing Trust Fund when needed…so that development continues and benefits all.”

Majeedah Rashid of the Nicetown CDC urged that developers be enlisted to create affordability, “They must be part of this proposed solution if it is to be effective and productive.  What we care about most regarding this bill is that it proposes policies that will make permanent changes towards affordable and equitable development.” 

Lisa Rivera of the Utility Emergency Services Fund said, “I worked side by side with homeless Veterans to help them find permanent affordable housing in Philadelphia…it was a challenge to find them affordable housing in safe areas…This bill has a chance to change hopeless options into greater opportunities.”

As debate continues on the bill, PACDC will keep pushing for a policy that balances the need for profitable market rate development, affordable on-site units, and payments to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund.

You can read PACDC’s testimony here: PACDC McConnell Testimony Bill 170678 Written.