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PACDC released Beyond Gentrification, Toward an Equitable Philadelphia: An Equitable Development Policy Platform in spring 2015. Since then, we’ve worked to advocate for its proposals and have made significant progress. Check out Can’t Wait to Be Home: Double the Housing Trust Fund and Affordable Homes for a Growing Philly for an update on some of the affordable-housing related policy recommendations we won.
What is this About
On February 18, 2015 PACDC was joined by dozens of civic and community leaders in releasing our platform Beyond Gentrification, Toward Equitable Neighborhoods: An Equitable Development Policy Agenda for Philadelphia. The platform called for a pro-growth strategy that confronts structural and institutional forms of inequality by creating sustained equality for low- and moderate- income Philadelphians. We encouraged candidates for Mayor and City Council to champion these ideas and build a more equitable city. Because Philadelphia does better when we all do better.
Strong neighborhoods are made up of neighbors who care about their communities and welcome new residents, as well as community-based organizations that provide a forum for input and action to create inclusive neighborhoods. Through the Philadelphia Planning Commission’s Citizens Planning Institute, community residents should be given the knowledge and tools to participate in the Registered Community Organization (RCO) process and other planning and zoning decisions in effective, inclusive ways. Non-profit community, civic and neighborhood associations play a vital role in engaging neighborhood residents and connecting them to vital services and programs, yet are vastly under-resourced. The City should boost to $4 million per year its investment in Neighborhood Advisory Committees (NACs) and other neighborhood-based groups that engage the community. Market-rate development projects that receive public subsidies should be required to advance Equitable Development in a meaningful way.
Housing policies are a significant way we can attack economic segregation in Philadelphia. The new Administration must lead by creating a comprehensive housing strategy to address our city’s needs for quality affordable homes, including at least doubling dedicated funding for the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund to $25 million per year. We must boost strategies to end homelessness, build and preserve more affordable homeownership and rental homes in every part of the city, including homes that are permanently affordable, spur more market-rate development, and ensure that residents are not involuntarily displaced from the neighborhoods they call home. It’s time to review the 10-Year Property Tax Abatement to determine if it must be updated for our current real estate market.
If Center City is the heart of commerce in Philadelphia, our neighborhood commercial corridors are its economic veins. Funding for programs to improve the property conditions of stores, clean and green the corridors, organize shop owners, and market corridors should be boosted to $4 million per year with a mix of local and federal funds. The City should allocate $3 million in local funds to leverage another $1.5 million from the state to finance mixed-use developments on our neighborhood corridors that could help small businesses and residents alike. The Philadelphia CDC Tax Credit Program, which supports neighborhood economic development, should be expanded.
The next Mayor should continue and improve efforts to increase hiring of Minority, Women and Disabled Owned Business Enterprises (M/W/DBEs) and workers in projects where public funds are involved by maintaining a commitment to Equal Opportunity Plans (EOPs), and should expand EOPs to include goals for hiring of city residents. The next Mayor should also use his or her leadership to gain a commitment from developers and their contractors to create EOPs and reports for large projects that are not publicly subsidized. Large employers in Philadelphia have an important role to play in advancing Equitable Development, and the next Mayor should do more to bring them to the table by encouraging them to source more of their services locally, as well as prioritize hiring from the local workforce.
One of the greatest fears about gentrification is involuntary displacement: long-time residents and small businesses that want to stay in their neighborhoods but can no longer afford rising rents or property taxes. There is much we don’t know about displacement: how many people does it affect and what happens to them if they are displaced? Policy makers need to collect better data to understand what’s happening in our neighborhoods and craft effective policy solutions, particularly for small business and residential renters for whom few protections exist. The existing measures to protect homeowners from displacement due to rising property taxes must be better promoted, and homeowners must be educated about the value of their growing asset and how to manage it in their own best interest. More can be done to help small business and residential renters to provide them with stability in improving communities, and give them more notice when rents are increasing.
Vacancy and Blight
Decades of disinvestment in some of our neighborhoods and declining conditions in oncestable neighborhoods have created a scourge of vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and poor property conditions, harming those that chose to remain, or who can’t afford to live in more attractive, safer neighborhoods. These blighted conditions also strip wealth from neighborhood property owners, as home values near vacant properties are decreased by an average of $8,000 according to a recent study. The City took major steps toward implementation of the Philadelphia Land Bank in 2014 in order to more strategically address vacant properties and get them into productive re-use more quickly, as well as improved Code enforcement on vacant properties in order to hold owners accountable to their neighbors. The next Council and Administration must maintain a strong commitment to both of these strategies, ensure that L&I has adequate resources to hold landlords accountable for poor property conditions, and help low-income homeowners become Code compliant through assistance with needed repairs.
A survey of press coverage:
Equitable Development Op-Eds on PlanPhilly:
“Addressing Dispalcement: The Business of Community Development,” John Chin & Sarah Yeung