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Reasons not to flip that house

Too much effort is being expended in Philadelphia to make millennials happy, or so it seems to Denise Goren.

Germantown Ave looking north at Durham St. in the  Mt Airy section of Philadelphia.
Germantown Ave looking north at Durham St. in the Mt Airy section of Philadelphia.Read moreAlejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer

Too much effort is being expended in Philadelphia to make millennials happy, or so it seems to Denise Goren.

For Goren, city director of policy and planning for transportation and utilities, longtime residents merit as much, if not more, attention as residential developers continue to expand their efforts from Center City to other Philadelphia neighborhoods.

"Housing affordability, the ability to export jobs to these neighborhoods and have access to jobs [elsewhere] and grocery stores" would go a long way to letting all residents share in the benefits of the city's building boom, Goren said.

A panel of experts tackled the issue of how to leverage growth to benefit all residents during a recent meeting of the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia.

As more neighborhoods are targeted for development, there has been growing opposition from organizations concerned about the displacement of longtime residents.

A coalition of Philadelphia groups wants to tax properties if they are flipped by developers less than two years after they were purchased.

The proposal, which its proponents acknowledge has a long road to travel, could contribute up to $12 million annually to the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund, double the amount there already.

This "anti-speculation tax," as envisioned by the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, would raise the real estate transfer tax by 1.5 percent on houses resold less than two years after purchase.

While acknowledging that it is "more difficult to build neighborhoods than houses," Goren said there should be a way of guaranteeing that residents who have held on during decades of decline are not displaced.

John Grady, who has been president of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. for five years, said he believes all areas of the city should share in the kind of growth that Center City and its neighborhoods have experienced for more than a decade.

"We are focused on taking resources and applying them to other parts of the city where the market is not necessarily active," Grady said.

PIDC has invested $110 million of its new market tax credits into nine development projects, he said.

The credits leveraged an additional $239 million in private investment to create more than 950 jobs and stimulate investment in the city's most distressed communities, Grady said.

"We have been able to establish a certain level of success," he said. "We find partners on the neighborhood level and create pathways for outside investors. We are taking advantage of a growing economy to align community investments with residential development."

Community development corporations have long played a vital role in checking neighborhood decline, but Farah Jimenez, a member of the School Reform Commission, said some areas of the city don't have them.

As executive director of Mt. Airy USA Community Development Corp. for 13 years, Jimenez found that only groups such as hers fully understood the nature and the needs of their neighborhoods.

A consulting firm once looked at the Germantown Avenue business corridor that had been in decline for many years, she said.

"The firm saw 3,000-square-foot houses on one side of the Avenue and 900-square-foot houses on the other side," she said. "They recommended that the 3,000-square-foot houses be broken into condos and the 900-square-foot ones be combined into condos, as well."

That plan was rejected, as Jimenez recalled, because it was the diversity of its housing stock that made Mount Airy the neighborhood it is.

Today, Germantown Avenue is thriving, which has increased the value of housing on both sides.

Planning needs to be more appropriate to the needs of the neighborhoods, Grady said.

"A large percentage of the population has not been participating in the city's recent growth," he said.

As 40 years of decline are reversed, he said, they need to become re-engaged.