Clarks Plan Calls for More Affordable Housing

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke wants to spur the development of 1,500 affordable housing units by taking advantage of a mixture of federal tax credits and municipal borrowing, as well as the stock of vacant city-owned land.

He said he particularly wants to target affordable housing in neighborhoods like Francisville and Point Breeze, which have been developing for years, as Center City’s housing boom pushes out from the core neighborhoods.

“If there’s not some action by the city of Philadelphia to ensure continued affordability, there will not be a balanced approach … to development,” he said.

Clarke unveiled his plans at a news conference Monday in Council chambers, where he was joined by labor leaders and developers of affording housing. John J. Dougherty, head of Local 98 of the electricians’ union, was on hand and called Clarke’s idea a “bold initiative.”

Mayor Nutter was not in attendance – Clarke said he had spoken to the mayor only briefly about the initiative, which would require city borrowing and some city agency ultimately to take control.

Clarke’s plan calls for 1,000 affordable rental units, to be built by private and non-profit developers with the help of a federal tax credit. The operating costs would be supported further by a Philadelphia Housing Authority subsidy and the issuing of $100 million in bonds.

The bonds would be paid back from the housing trust fund, which generates about $11 million to $12 million a year from the fee for recording deeds, Clarke said.

He also wants the city to transfer vacant land and tax delinquent properties to developers under the condition that the homes be sold below a certain price point. Clarke called these 500 units "workforce housing," for middle income home-buyers who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to live in some of the city's hotter areas.

There is no doubt a need for affordable housing – in 2013, PHA had 140,000 families or individuals waiting for housing or rent vouchers. PHA has launched a plan to build 6,000 units in five years in partnership with developers and community groups.

Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter, said the administration was interested in hearing the details of Clarke’s proposal and learning how it “meshes” with the plans already underway.

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