Urban Fold

Optimism Indicator: Record Number of Building Permits in Philadelphia

Observers of Philadelphia’s economic and social situation can celebrate, and worry, given recent data on issues like poverty, crime, and the job market. One bright spot, however, is 2013's record number of building permits.

Larry Eichel reports for the philly.com regarding recent trends in Philadelphia that will inspire ambivalence among those invested in improving the fortunes of those that call the city home.

Among the best of the recent trends to come from the city, according to Eichel’s report, is a building boom in residential housing. “Last year, developers received building permits for 2,815 units of new residential housing, the most approved in a decade. Those units are worth an estimated $465 million, the highest annual amount on record.” Eichel speculates that the residential building boom is a result of the city’s seventh consecutive year of population growth, led especially by large numbers of millennials moving to the city (although a recent report claims evidence that Millennials won’t stay in the city for long).

Eichel, however, is definitely not espousing uncritical exuberance. In addition to the news about building permits, is some cold water about home sales: “annual home sales rose only a little, keeping them at less than half the prerecession peak. So the indicators on the residential housing front did not all point in the same direction.”

Eichel goes on to examine measures of poverty, employment, schools, and crime—which produce nothing but ambivalent findings. Success has been hard to sustain and what recovery exists is moderate. Eichel’s narrative fits the Philadelphia political leadership’s reasoning behind the its much-debated plans to build affordable housing

Full Story: Philadelphia's future in the numbers


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