Socially Conscious Developers Build a Bastion of Affordability in Philly

Inga Saffron reports on the redevelopment of a 19th-century brick mill into workforce housing in Philadelphia's South Kensington neighborhood; a project that proves virtue need not come at the expense of profit for one Philadelphia-based developer.

Saffron explain the unique concept behind Oxford Mills, a 114 unit adaptive re-use rental project, that "is being built by a private company, D3 Real Estate, which intends to market the units as affordable housing to teachers, especially novices working in programs like Teach for America, and others who fall into the growing category known as 'the working poor.'"

She describes the philosophy shared by Greg Hill and Gabe Canuso, former high-end residential developers, and founders of socially conscious D3, and their commitment to keeping prices affordable for their future tenants.

"Because D3 and [partners Seawall Development] are for-profit companies, they had to cobble together subsidies, mostly federal tax credits, to be able to offer reduced-price rents," explains Saffron. "Because the mill dates from 1875 and is in a 'distressed' neighborhood, it qualified for both historic and New Markets tax credits. Together, those programs cut the cost of the $36 million project by roughly 40 percent. They are not actually obligated by those programs to charge reduced rents, but Hill and Canuso say they are committed to subsidizing rents for the long term, even if the neighborhood gentrifies."

"In the collaborative way it has been financed and planned, Oxford Mills also promises to be a model for maintaining pockets of affordability in Philadelphia's increasingly affluent core," she concludes.

Full Story: Changing Skyline: Cool affordable housing for young teachers

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