The Lead

Philly Council moves to preserve affordable housing in University City neighborhood

By: - March 12, 2022 6:30 am

“The way that affordable housing policy has been handled over the years reflects a grave injustice to our communities, and to low-income residents in particular,” Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — City Council has approved legislation requiring the inclusion of affordable housing in future developments of the University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who sponsored the proposal, said that 20% of houses in the development will be offered at an affordable rent.

Last year, the owners of University City Townhomes declined to renew their contract with Housing and Urban Development and instead opted to sell the property, which would push out the affordable renters.

“The way that affordable housing policy has been handled over the years reflects a grave injustice to our communities, and to low-income residents in particular,” Gauthier said. “Our ultimate goal with this legislation is to support the public interest by making sure as much affordable housing remains in amenity-rich neighborhoods — which are experiencing immense commercial development pressures — as we possibly can.”

Gauthier said that based on the current market in the West Philly area, it is evident that any new development will prioritize commercial development.

The bill, which was initially introduced in October last year, has been amended to require that 20% of units be available at affordable rates for people earning up to 40% of the area median income, and for owner-occupied households earning up to 60% of the median income.

According to Gauthier, the bill will go into effect immediately.

Gauthier also introduced an ordinance to account for areas along the Market-Frankford transit corridor.

“This ordinance will ensure further affordability by requiring a higher percentage of affordable units to be included in projects where developers wish to access density bonuses,” Gauthier said. “This bill is currently awaiting a hearing, and I look forward to discussing it further with my colleagues.”

Unclaimed properties

Councilmember At-large Katherine Gilmore Richardson introduced a bill to help account for unclaimed property in Philadelphia.

According to Gilmore Richardson, Pennsylvania has nearly $4 billion in unclaimed property, and Philadelphia has at least 250 claims listed in the Commonwealth’s online database.

“As our city looks to our post-COVID-19 recovery, we need to ensure we are not leaving any resources on the table,” Gilmore Richardson said. “Our total obligations are increasing, and like many other cities, our budget has taken a huge hit. Every dollar owed to the City of Philadelphia must be accounted for and collected, so we can provide Philadelphians with the quality resources they need.”

In other council news:

Councilmember Cindy Bass-D- 8th District spoke candidly about the continuous threat of gun violence in Philadelphia.

“As we talk about violence and the effects that it has, and the lingering effects that this kind of violence has on all of us, we think about the investments that we make,” Bass said. “And just securing these investments and ensuring that they’re doing the job that we have required them or requested from them to do.”

Bass said she feels there has been a lack of investment in libraries, parks and recreation in the city, again placing the onus on the Rebuild program that uses the soda tax money to improve the city’s facilities.

“We had expected with Rebuild that we would have a much more robust level of investment in many of our playgrounds, parks and recreation centers, and libraries,” Bass said. “And it just really hasn’t come to fruition. So we are going to be talking about that as a way to redirect some of our young people. But, you know, listen, maybe we can’t save everybody, but we can save somebody. We can save some folks. There are some folks who want to be in a different situation, a situation where they want to have access to training and opportunities and jobs, and they don’t want to be on the street.”

Through Thursday, Philadelphia had logged 99 homicides for the year.

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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