Title of the Project: Examining the role of publicly owned property sales in City and neighborhood change
Client: The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is the 4th largest public housing agency in the United States and the largest landlord in Pennsylvania, providing housing assistance for approximately 80,000 low income people in Philadelphia. In addition to developing and managing its own units, PHA regularly partners with other like-minded affordable housing development organizations to develop additional affordable housing throughout the city, including those serving formerly homeless individuals and families, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, youth aging out of foster care, among others.
Issue Definition: In October 2020, PHA entered into an agreement with organizers of the Ridge Avenue encampment (also known as Camp Teddy) to resolve a four-month long protest adjacent to its headquarters on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia. As part of the agreement, PHA agreed to institute a temporary moratorium on market rate property sales and to work together with the encampment organizers on an independent study to examine PHA’s practice of selling vacant properties to raise revenue without requiring buyers to provide affordable housing. Encampment organizers contend that such sales contribute to gentrification, displacement of people of color and the loss of community identity and character in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods, while PHA contends that such sales are needed to offset decades-long cuts to federal subsidy.
Scope of Work: The primary research question involves the status of approximately 400 properties sold by PHA since 2017, and how the disposition of these properties has impacted the communities in which they are located.
Research should include a review of public housing funding in the United States in general and in Philadelphia in particular since the year 2000, as well as the history of the “Used House Program” as implemented by the Philadelphia Housing Authority between 1967 and 1973.
Additional background research should include studies on gentrification in Philadelphia, as well as alternative approaches to creating and preserving affordable housing through community development corporations, community land trusts.
Available Data: The primary dataset will include a list of approximately 400 properties sold by PHA since 2017. This dataset should be cross referenced with City of Philadelphia and other data to determine which of the properties have been redeveloped, and what the impact of that redevelopment has been in terms of tax revenue to the City, blight reduction, housing need addressed and other factors. Examples of such data include:
Demolition, Building and/or Alteration Permits
Property Assessment/Tax Delinquency
PHA Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) participation
In addition to these objective measures, additional data may include interviews with buyers of the properties, neighborhood residents, City and elected officials, housing activists, and others as appropriate.
Expected Deliverable: The expected deliverable includes an analysis of the property sales program, discussion of pros and cons of this approach, and recommendations related to future property dispositions.
Skills Required: This project requires the ability to analyze property data, an understanding of how and why neighborhoods change, interest in social safety net programs such as public housing and the evolution of such programs over the past twenty years.
Potential Independent, Informal Advisors
Rasheedah Phillips, Managing Attorney for Housing Policy, Community Legal Services
Anne Fadullon, Director, Department of Planning & Development, City of Philadelphia
Rick Sauer, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC)
Maria Gonzalez, Executive Director, HACE CDC
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) Philadelphia
Black & Brown Workers Co-op (BBWC)