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Affordable-housing plan moving ahead

City officials outlined details to create more affordable housing for middle-income residents.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee (right) yesterday with City Council President Darrell Clarke on the vacant lot in Francisville. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)
City Councilman Bill Greenlee (right) yesterday with City Council President Darrell Clarke on the vacant lot in Francisville. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)Read more

IN SOME Philadelphia neighborhoods, economic revitalization is in full bloom, with new housing springing up like colorful flowers. But those flowers often come with price tags that put them far out of reach for the average city dweller.

That's why city officials yesterday gathered on a vacant city-owned lot in Francisville to announce the latest step in a plan to make new housing units affordable to more people in areas that are moving on up.

"Essentially, today we're rolling out the first phase of a very aggressive plan to ensure affordability," City Council President Darrell Clarke said.

Brian Abernathy, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, said the program will help "your teachers, your firefighters, your police officers, your true middle class that a neighborhood is built upon."

The "workforce-housing" plan is part of a large initiative announced last year by City Council to create affordable housing units - 1,000 rental and 1,000 ownership - for moderate- and middle-income people in neighborhoods where housing values are rapidly appreciating.

A pilot program of the larger initiative in Point Breeze, Grays Ferry and Francisville has resulted in the city issuing five requests for proposals to build 77 homes, Clarke said.

Like the pilot program, under the workforce-housing plan the city will give developers city-owned vacant lots for nominal fees in exchange for building homes to be sold at below-market value to families with incomes between 80 to 120 percent of area median income. A family of four with an annual income of $65,000 would qualify, Clarke said.

The reduced home prices must be maintained for 10 years, regardless of resale. The 10-year affordability period will renew with any resale of a unit built under the initiative during the affordability period, officials said.

The goal is to build about 100 workforce homes in Francisville, Point Breeze and Mantua with prices ranging from about $180,00 to $230,000.

Home-seekers who qualify will be able to get 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 3 percent interest from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, said its executive director, Brian Hudson Sr.

"No lines, no waiting," Hudson said. "The money is available now."

"Having the ability for people who have lived here or people of that income to be able to get a home and be able to afford it is very important," said at-large City Councilman Bill Greenlee, who attended the event. "Government does have a place to protect the longtime residents of the area and also to do what it can to see that an area remains diverse."

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose South Philadelphia district includes Point Breeze, said he wants to make sure that "anyone, regardless of their checkbook or pocketbook, has the opportunity to live in their neighborhood."