While I worked on my story on the new Camden homes being developed with $26 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, I realized that the two dozen homes sold so far under the program have all been sold to women. Fascinated by this, I asked some of the nonprofit developers to explain this phenomenon.
“When couples come in, generally it’s the woman who qualifies and is employed,” said Helene Pierson, executive director of one of the developers, Heart of Camden.
Bob Stokes, professor of sociology and urban planning at Drexel, whom I interviewed for my land-banking story (also related to the so-called NSP2) – offered these thoughts:
"Women dominate public and assisted-housing rolls, more so than their representation in the general city population. They are typically the only ones on a public housing lease,” he said, adding that therefore when home-ownership programs come along, its women who have experience dealing with leases and bills and are better able to apply for such programs.
“If you look at data from the 2010 census for Camden, there are very few married couples with children, and a tiny fraction of male-headed households with children while female headed households tend to be over represented,” Stokes said.
This all reminded me of the time I was driving around public housing in Camden for a story and pulled over to talk to a group of young men (they appeared to be in their 20s and 30s) to ask them about how the public housing process was worked out for them.
“You gotta talk to the females about that, they’ll tell you,” one of the men told me.
Off I went to find the women. Except many weren’t home because they were working during the day, which goes to prove Pierson’s point stated above.
Drive around Camden during the day, and you’ll mostly see men -- loitering in corners or sitting on stoops.
But the phenomenon goes beyond just women coming off public housing. Look at Mayor Dana L. Redd, also a single female homeowner. Some of the NSP2 homeowners say seeing women homeowners is empowering, especially to girls growing up in Camden.
“This is an investment for me but I also told her it’s for her,” Alona Williams said about her oldest daughter, who is 17. “I want to show her that you can make it.”
Williams, 36, a single mother of two, is a first-time home-buyer whom I featured in my previous story. She purchased a $142,000 home in the Cooper Plaza neighborhood, next to Cooper University Hospital.
“You might think you need a partner to have an American Dream but it’s not like that anymore,” Williams told me. “With hard work and determination you can make it.”