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Preserving 14,500 apartments over the next 10 years.
Preserving 14,500 apartments over the next 10 years.

Preserving Philadelphia’s Publicly Assisted Affordable Housing- Preservation Network

It is estimated that Philadelphia needs nearly 70,000 affordable rental apartments to meet demand. According to Philadelphia’s Assessment of Fair Housing Plan, more than 14,500 existing publicly assisted affordable apartments may be at-risk, needing significant renovations, and/or reaching the end of their affordability period.This presents an emerging crisis for the city.

Philadelphia’s poverty rate ranks the highest among large cities in the United States. One in four households in the city struggles to pay rent; meanwhile, over the past 15 years, Philadelphia lost nearly 24,000 market-rate apartments with rents of $750 or less. This form of naturally occurring affordable housing will continue to vanish as neighborhood markets grow stronger.

Currently, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia is $1,200, far out of reach for lower-income Philadelphians. With the disappearance of naturally occurring affordable housing, lower-income Philadelphians increasingly must rely on a short supply of publicly assisted affordable housing. Tough choices are often made between paying rent and putting food on the table.

We must work together to protect public investments and preserve publicly assisted affordable housing for Philadelphians.

The time for action is now.

Preservation at a Glance: The 5 Core Strategies

  1. A collaborative leader is critical to the implementation of the Preservation Strategy. The leader should form an Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Network (Preservation Network), a cross-sector body made up of for-profit, nonprofit, and public agencies with subject matter expertise, to help implement the Preservation Strategy.
  2. An open-source, online housing preservation database should be developed and maintained by an impartial organization. Data should be used to assess, prioritize, and develop preservation plans for at-risk properties. The database should be available and free to the public.
  3. Owners, residents, asset managers, housing advocates, and public officials should have customized support and assistance to better tackle preservation and asset- management challenges. Trainings, workshops, and individual coaching should be offered to owners to promote strategies for preserving housing and affordability. The same should be offered to residents to learn about affordability periods, regulations, and tenant protections. Residents should also be connected to services and programs if they are in danger of being displaced.
  4. Philadelphia should have supportive regulations, including a right of notice whereby owners provide 24-month notice when affordability periods or rent subsidy contracts expire; and a right of first refusal whereby a qualified nonprofit developer, government agency, and/or tenant association can purchase the property if the owner opts out of preserving the property as affordable housing. Philadelphia should require owners who intend to opt out to assist displaced residents with relocation expenses. Owners should also help residents find other housing.
  5. New financing options and revenue streams, such as a loan fund, should be created to address funding challenges. The loan fund could offer below-market loans for a range of financing needs so that nonprofit and for-profit developers can preserve affordable rental housing. For any new or existing local or state resources, affordable housing preservation should be a budget priority.

A detailed report, which includes the Preservation Strategy along with best practice research and methodology, can be requested from Carolyn Placke, Program Officer-LISC Philadelphia. These core strategies are recommendations included in the City of Philadelphia’s Housing for Equity: An Action Plan for Philadelphia, downloadable here.