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Philadelphia's Housing Incentives Shoot School Funding in the Foot

Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic Inga Saffron is the latest to respond to an article in the Washington Post asking whether family-friendly cities make economic sense.
September 15, 2014, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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The question posed originally by Lydia DePillis: "Why, from a purely economic standpoint, would a city on the make try to attract families at all?" Saffron says the inquiry "stopped me in my tracks" because Philadelphia has been one of those "cities on the make" that has attracted thousands of new, young residents in recent years.

But Philadelphia's evolution is not without concerns, especially with regard to its school budget crisis: "Philadelphia has undergone such a quick and heady transformation, as housing construction exploded and the streets filled again with people, that it hasn't spent much time asking itself, what next? Can this recovery be sustained once millennial parents start confronting the first day of kindergarten in a classroom with 35 kids and no teacher's aide?"

The critical argument in the piece is that Philadelphia is "effectively embracing" antifamily policies. For example: "We dole out 10-year property tax abatements to encourage new housing construction, even as the program drains the schools of revenue. Who do we expect to live in those houses, which are now typically built with three bedrooms?" 

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Published on Saturday, September 13, 2014 in Philadelphia Inquirer
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