The Lead

Philly City Council ‘turns the key’ on affordable housing program

By: - April 30, 2022 6:30 am

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — This week, City Council and Council President Darrell Clarke gave residents of West Philadelphia a chance to literally turn the key on a new chapter of their lives.

A new city program, known as, appropriately enough, “Turn the Key” will provide 1,000 affordable houses through City Council’s Neighborhood Preservation Initiative (NPI).

Passed in 2020, NPI provides $400 million in funding for housing benefits, including $113 million for affordable housing production in Philadelphia.

Turn the Key would provide over 1,000 energy-efficient three-bedroom units on city-owned land. According to a news release from Clarke’s office, the monthly mortgage for these homes will be $1,200, far less than the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom, which is $1,700.

“Today is the beginning of a new era in affordable homeownership in Philadelphia,” Clarke said. “With funds from the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative and publicly-owned city land, we’re launching the largest development of affordable housing in city history.”

Clarke said that Council has already selected some developers and will continue to work with more until at least 1,000 homes have been built.

Philly Council moves to preserve affordable housing in University City neighborhood

“Philadelphians who buy these three-bedroom homes will have less mortgage payments than the current average rent for a two-bedroom apartment,” Clarke said.

Using the money from NPI, first-time homeowners will be granted soft loans under the NPI Mortgage Affordability Program of up to $75,000 will be awarded.

Eligibility is contingent upon completing a city-funded homeownership counseling program, certifying your income, and not having owned a home in the last three years.

Also, there will be a preference for qualified city employees pending legislation recently referred to committee.

“At a time when rising housing costs are pricing low- and moderate-income Philadelphians out of the opportunity to buy their first home, this initiative will help ensure opportunities for Black and brown families to build generational wealth,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.

According to the release, Turn the Key will create 3,189 jobs from construction spending, netting $312.6 million.

“Public servants are our city’s greatest asset,” said Ernest Garrett, president of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. “With the creation of this program, many of those individuals will have the opportunity to own a home — for the first time in their lives — thanks to Council President Clarke, all of City Council and city housing officials.”

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

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