Philadelphia's Rowhouse Remedy for Gentrification

Blessed with an innate resilience, Philadelphia's brick rowhouses risk disrepair and redevelopment. Local nonprofits are looking for ways to keep this resource equitable.
June 24, 2015, 5am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Eli Pousson

Last year, Philadelphia's city council "approved the strategic plan of a new land bank to target the redevelopment of thousands of vacant buildings, lots and other tax-delinquent properties."

But the appearance of dilapidation can be deceptive: the city's rowhouses have good bones. "'Our brick rowhomes are those houses that the wolf couldn't blow down in the three little pigs story,' says Karen Black, a former civil rights lawyer and current CEO of May 8 Consulting."

The Healthy Rowhouse Project challenges oncoming gentrification, arguing that existing stock will always be more affordable than new units, "'because it costs more than $300,000 to build a single unit of affordable housing,' says Black. 'At the same time, we can repair an existing home that people are already living in for $10,000 or less.'"

Meanwhile, others want to make it harder for speculators to displace longtime residents. The Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities (PCAC) has proposed a so-called "flip tax" that "would tack on a 1.5 percent fee to the city's 4 percent realty transfer tax for properties that sell more than once in 24 months." 

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Published on Monday, June 1, 2015 in Next City
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