Mixed Income Housing Bill Moves out of Rules Committee

On Tuesday, December 5th, City Council’s Committee on Rules amended and reported out Bill No. 170678, which would create a Mixed Income Housing Program.  This is a big step in PACDC’s Affordable Homes for a Growing Philly campaign, and allows the debate to move to the full Council in the new year! Due to Council rules, the bill cannot be considered for final passage until they return from break in January (date TBA). 

The amendments significantly limit the bill’s applicability to zoning districts (see a map with applicable parcels outlined) 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.  PACDC is disappointed that many residential development projects in neighborhoods experiencing significant price appreciation and gentrification, but not in the zoning districts targeted, will not be required to create affordable units or pay into the Housing Trust Fund.  But the legislation is a first step, and worthy of support as amended.

From January 1, 2014 through August 1, 2017, more than 3,557 new housing units were created in these zoning districts to which the amended bill would apply.  If this policy had been in place during that period of time, either 355 families now desperately waiting for an affordable home would have secured one, or in-lieu fee payments of as high as $79 million would have been made to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund.  Those resources could have helped nearly 20,000 of our neighbors now struggling with homelessness, housing instability, or poor housing conditions secure safe, affordable homes in every part of Philadelphia.  While we cannot predict whether development will continue at that pace over the next few years, a bill that seeks to leverage resources for affordable homes from the neighborhoods where we’ve seen the most significant development activity—and record breaking sales as well as very high rents—is a fair compromise.

The amendments also increase the income restrictions for qualified buyers or renters of the affordable units.  Renters between 50% and 60% Area Median Income (AMI) would qualify for rental units, and buyers between 70% and 80% AMI could secure for-sale homes, depending on the density bonuses chosen by the developer. Philadelphia desperately needs more affordable rental homes for households at 50% AMI and below, and the rapidly rising price of for-sale homes is pricing out a broader range of households. Again, future Housing Trust Fund payments secured thanks to Bill No. 170678 will help Philadelphians that earn far below those income limits, including a significant number of households earning 30% AMI and below.    

Several other technical amendments were made to the bill that make the Mixed Income Housing program rules simpler, and provide developers with more flexibility, but also ensure compliance.      

PACDC applauds the leadership of Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the lead sponsor of the Mixed Income Housing legislation, along with co-sponsors Council President Darrell Clarke, and Councilmembers Jannie Blackwell and Kenyatta Johnson, for pushing a dialogue about how Philadelphia can leverage the current building boom to create a more equitable city.   We also thank the Rules Committee members, including Chairman Bill Greenlee, and Vice Chair Mark Squilla, who convened a 5-hour hearing to listen to more than three dozen witnesses about the proposal.    

The Mixed Income Housing legislation is only a start to the conversation about how Philadelphia must leverage our planning and development policies to create a more equitable city. PACDC will continue working in partnership with our members and allies to demonstrate the need to expand its provisions to cover more neighborhoods where affordable homes are needed.   We cannot have an equitable Philadelphia unless we have equitable development policies.  Bill No. 170678 is a first step on that path.    

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