The Philadelphia region's real estate market is booming again, with high-rise cranes towering over Center City and suburban markets doing well, too. But can it also create more affordable homes and rentals?
"Strengthening Equitable Development in Philadelphia," a conference from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, will pose relevant questions.
Hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC), the conference is open to the public. Registration is required.
Affordability is tricky to measure. But a study by personal-finance website Interest.com says Philadelphia received a grade of "C" for housing affordability, slightly better than its "C-minus" the prior year.
In 2014, the region's median home price was $227,200, the study says, while median income was just over $60,000.
The Boston metro area, by contrast, earned a failing "D" for affordability in 2014. Median income there is higher, $72,907, but the median home price is $398,000.
Minneapolis topped the list as most affordable city, according to Interest.com's 2014 study, earning a "B." (No city earned an "A.")
Washington city codes require developers of luxury high-rise buildings to apportion some units for affordable housing, but those are often not enforced, said Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink, who will give the keynote address at Wednesday's conference.
Where has equitable development taken place?
"Equitable development requires a few things, such as a robust regional transportation system. Low-income people are more likely to not have cars. It's essentially to connect them to job opportunity," Blackwell said.
"Inclusionary zoning is a good strategy," she noted.
How are developers part of the solution?
"Minneapolis-St. Paul is doing light rail between those two communities. They worked with small businesses to make sure they weren't too disruptive," she said, and they made sure to build affordable housing there.
Many private developers "would like to do more, but they need incentives beyond low-income housing tax credits, incentives to create family-size housing with two to three bedrooms. It has to be in partnership with cities and states," Blackwell said.
At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the community worked to get a benefits package "baked in, with a certain amount of affordable housing and jobs-training and apprenticeship programs. Those work," Blackwell said.
An $800 million public-private venture to revitalize the Port of Oakland will transform public land the size of 200 football fields into an international logistics center and create more than 1,500 jobs. The project broke ground in November 2013; the agreement guarantees that half of the jobs will go to Oakland residents.
In Philadelphia, PACDC executive director Rick Sauer points to the $48 million Paseo Verde, a 206,000-square-foot transit-oriented project developed by the nonprofit Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha and the for-profit Jonathan Rose Cos. in 2012-13. Adjacent to the SEPTA Regional Rail station at Temple University, Paseo Verde includes 120 rental housing units and 30,000 square feet of retail and office space.
Nicetown has targeted owner-occupied home-repair work with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia.
Temple I & II and Walnut Hill West have been developed by Mission First Housing Group.
Last month, PACDC hosted officials from Pittsburgh to learn from that city's mixed-income housing, financing challenges, and solutions.
"A shameful number of Philadelphians aren't benefiting from our city's renewal," said Beth McConnell, PACDC policy director. "Gentrification may not be their problem, but a lack of equitable development surely is.
"As Philadelphia begins to turn a corner after decades of decline, now is the time for a comprehensive look at how we nurture equitable redevelopment in every neighborhood." What are the innovative policies that can leverage public and private investment for the good of the poor and middle class who already live here, not solely for the wealthy we are beginning to attract?"