PACDC's Equitable Development Policy Platform
We all deserve a city in which affordable housing, work that pays a living wage, and safe neighborhoods are attainable for every resident. Philadelphia has work to do to become the city that we all need. As a step toward truly creating an equitable city and reducing disparities especially experienced by Black, Indigenous, People of Color including those who identify as Latino and Asian (BIPOC) Philadelphians and the disparities between the neighborhoods in which they live, PACDC has released a new Equitable Development Policy Platform.
More than 100 community leaders and experts have helped us pull together 22 high impact recommendations to shape and guide the policies and funding priorities of the next Mayoral Administration, City Council and other decision-makers in Philadelphia. PACDC will promote these recommendations to help move our City forward equitably within the following six planks: Quality of Life, Inclusive Communities, Anti-Displacement, Housing, Economic Development, and Vacancy & Blight. We have also developed an easy to read, two-page summary which encapsulates the recommendations in the full platform. If you’re interested in reading the end notes to dive into the source material which informed our platform, click here. So far, over 60 organizations have endorsed our platform. We are encouraging organizations and businesses to join their colleagues by endorsing the platform today.
Mayoral Candidate Forum: In conjunction with Ceiba, LISC Philadelphia, Regional Housing Legal Services, Urban Affairs Coalition, and Urban League of Philadelphia, PACDC hosted a Mayoral Candidate forum on Equitable Development & Affordable Housing on April 19th at Broad Street Ministry. The packed house heard candidates speak on a range of issues important to housing, community development, and equity in Philadelphia. Check back next week for a link to the full video recording of the event provided by PhillyCAM. For now, read about highlights from the evening from WHYY and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Six Platform Planks
Quality of Life
The number one concern we heard from community leaders interviewed for this platform is that their neighborhood is dirty and unsafe and the public places they rely upon are often closed or unusable. Every city neighborhood deserves to have clean and safe streets, sidewalks, transit stations, parks, libraries, and recreation centers that are open and in good condition. Philadelphia must inject equity into budget decisions to allocate a higher percentage of services and resources to chronically underserved communities. An equitable Philadelphia requires that city government provide essential government services to all neighborhoods to ensure public safety, cleanliness, and resident well-being. Getting these basic services done right in every neighborhood will instill public confidence in our city’s ability to take on bigger and bolder challenges.
An inclusive Philadelphia requires a powerful shift away from long-term discriminatory power structures that impose top-down policies on neighborhoods who are forced to “take it or leave it.” To be more inclusive, city government, philanthropy, and other partners need to fund community-based organizations sufficiently to let them pilot resident-generated programs, pay equitable wages to their staff and compensate residents for providing their lived experience and expertise to advise program design and implementation. In addition, to ensure active community participation in planning and development decision-making processes, communities need transparent information from city agencies and boards such as the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). The recommendations in this section have the power to create a true partnership between government and community, to dramatically improve residents’ power to be at the table when decisions are made, and to be able to implement effective and viable solutions to each
We are hearing more and more about long-term Philadelphia families and businesses who are being displaced from the neighborhoods they have called home because of rising rents, taxes, utility costs, and a lack of clear title to the house in which they live or the building in which their business is located. Putting four community stabilizing policies in place will distribute the benefits and burdens of new growth and investment more fairly, allow more current residents who want to remain in their community to do so, and discourage displacement of viable small businesses that serve community needs. As a result, more iconic small businesses thrive, more high-amenity mixed-income neighborhoods form or continue, and more homeowners pass down their wealth to the next generation.
An equitable Philadelphia needs a balanced housing market that includes healthy, safe, affordable homes for households at all income levels. As property values and rents have skyrocketed, too many families and households risk losing homeownership or having to live in substandard, unhealthy rental units because it is the only shelter that they can afford. As one leader interviewed said, “for decades Strawberry Mansion was a very affordable neighborhood and now it is not. When Strawberry Mansion is no longer affordable where does a family go?” Philadelphia needs to act today to increase housing options for households at less than 30% AMI, to preserve existing affordable rental units, to build up declining homeownership rates for BIPOC households and to ensure new housing construction offers more than luxury housing for the wealthy.
Two key goals of equitable economic development are: (1) to help neighborhood-based small businesses, especially those that are BIPOC- and/or immigrant-owned, thrive and expand, and (2) to create the conditions for and access to successful employment in high-quality jobs for youth and Philadelphians who face a variety of barriers (such as recent immigrants, returning citizens, workers experiencing homelessness, veterans, and/or workers who are disabled). To do this effectively, Philadelphia must help small businesses that suffered during the pandemic recover along with the multicultural commercial corridors that neighborhoods depend upon to anchor their community, provide residents with both housing and job training supports simultaneously, provide Black and Latino business owners with needed technical assistance and access to capital, and expand programs to bring youth into jobs with a career path. In return, the city will have more stable businesses, workers, and business corridors that will help it prosper.
Vacancy & Blight
Philadelphia has come a long way since the 1980’s when it welcomed any interested buyer or investment regardless of potential negative impacts. Today Philadelphia understands that an investor that is planning to extract value from the neighborhood and move a property from affordable homeownership to luxury rental is not contributing to the city’s equitable growth. An equitable city cannot sit idly by when the person with the most money always wins, and the loser is the community. By helping community-based organizations compete on a more level playing field for available properties and improving land bank performance in acquiring and selling problem properties, Philadelphia can reactivate its vacant properties more equitably and help to manage neighborhood change by using publicly owned vacant land to meet community needs.