One Key, Underappreciated Affordable Housing Strategy: Repairing Existing Homes

The city of Philadelphia offers a case study for the challenges and potential benefits of home repair programs.

November 12, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Glenwood Green Acres, Philadelphia

Tony Fischer / Flickr

An article by Michelle Bond writes on an effort in Philadelphia to maintain and repair existing housing units as an affordable housing program.

Bond describes potential and necessity of the approach:

Philadelphia’s housing stock is old and can be expensive to maintain — challenges in a city with a 23% poverty rate, incomes that aren’t keeping pace with rising home prices, and now a pandemic-induced recession. Philadelphia and other cities across the country have been struggling to address a lack of housing that their residents can afford. Every home that becomes uninhabitable and abandoned or crumbles due to disrepair is one fewer home available to mitigate the affordable housing crisis. Two years ago, the city’s 10-year housing plan identified revitalizing existing housing stock as one of Philadelphia’s greatest challenges. But it’s also one of its biggest opportunities.

While organizations like the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, and community development corporations are working to help homeowners with repairs, the need is greater than the resources available for the work, according to the article. The Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. is looking for contractors "to participate in its basic repair and adaptive home modification programs," according to Bond. "Its low-interest loan program saw a spike in applicants over the summer, and the nonprofit is reviewing proposals from additional banks that want to participate."

As a next step, the Philadelphia City Council is "considering a 1% tax on construction to fund affordable housing programs that would help close funding gaps for initiatives such as home maintenance grant programs…"

Some context for the newsiness of this article clearly comes from a recent landmark decision by the city to turn vacant properties over to a community land trust for residents living in homeless encampments.

Saturday, November 7, 2020 in The Philadelphia Inquirer

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