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How Communities of Practice Make a Difference in Middle Neighborhoods

October 22, 2018 | Next City

By Oscar Perry Abello

Not quite thriving, not quite distressed and ignored by policymakers, middle neighborhoods look to community development groups for support and stability. A look at the programs that can improve outcomes in these precarious places.

The story of Chatham, on the South Side of Chicago, while unique in many ways, can also sound familiar to those in neighborhoods of cities all across the country. Families moved here from far away, often fleeing violence and oppression. Parents found good paying, steady jobs. They put down roots and purchased homes. Children grew up with encouragement from parents, teachers, relatives and friends, some of them going on to Ivy League colleges and illustrious professional careers.

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Philly developers say numbers don’t ‘pencil’ out on city’s latest affordable housing scheme

By Jake Blumgart

Ori Feibush may be one of the more controversial developers in Philadelphia, but few would argue about the one-time City Council candidate’s ability to get projects done in the city. Now the man who brought roof decks to Point Breeze is saying that the voluntary development incentives included in a new zoning bill designed to raise money for affordable housing won’t attract the interest needed to make the policy work.

“We found that there wasn’t any project we were looking at where it would work,” said Feibush, who has developed over 1,000 units of new housing in Philadelphia over the last decade. “Our office looks at more than a dozen properties a week, so we have 100 properties we reviewed from the last couple months and we went back to every one of those and it just didn’t pencil.”

That’s a problem because hopes are high for this new voluntary inclusionary zoning bill — now under consideration by the City Council. The legislation would incentivize developers to pay money into Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund in exchange for bonuses that allow larger, denser developments than would be otherwise permitted under zoning rules. The bill is projected to bring $18 million to the Housing Trust over the next five years.

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Philadelphia anti-blight legislation back in action

September 26, 2018 | The Philadelphia Tribune

By Jake Blumgart

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has given Philadelphia back its favorite blight-fighting tool. In a Sept. 13 ruling, state justices unanimously reaffirmed the city’s ability to force property owners to maintain the appearances of their vacant buildings, reversing a 2015 lower court ruling.

The case centers on the city’s “doors and windows” ordinance, which the Department of Licenses and Inspections began enforcing in 2011 as a means to reduce the number of unkempt, boarded-up buildings in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The regulation intends to serve as a hedge against creeping neighborhood blight. It requires owners on blocks where 80 percent of buildings are occupied to install operable windows and doors on empty structures, instead of just boarding them up.

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Tax on new construction advances despite Kenney concerns, scorching criticism from building trades

June 6, 2018 | The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Julia Terruso

A tax on new construction to fund affordable housing moved one step closer to passage Wednesday despite pressure from the city’s building trades to abandon the plan, concerns from the Kenney administration about its effect on businesses, and criticism from housing advocates who said the levy could end up benefiting wealthier Philadelphians.

The 1 percent tax, which would be placed on most new construction, could raise up to $19 million a year for affordable housing at a time when the city is experiencing a dire shortage, proponents of the bill said.

“We think this is going to give a significant boost to our entire city, not just Center City, where the market is going through the roof,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said. “I think it’s an awesome program. It’s Philly-first. While we’re excited about new people in the city, at some point we have to address the needs of people who are here.”

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Dwight Evans seeks second term in Congress

April 27, 2018 | The Philadelphia Tribune

By Michael D’Onofrio

Incumbent Dwight Evans said he will rely on a his political record and experience as a longtime politician against a political newcomer in the upcoming Democratic primary.

“Who is most effective and who will get things done?” Evans asked during a recent Philadelphia Tribune editorial board meeting. “I provide the kind of leadership that is necessary to address the issues.”

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McClinton wants gun violence declared a public health crisis

April 25, 2018 | The Philadelphia Tribune

By Stacy Brown

During a series of hearings on gun violence before the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191), highlighted what she called the disparity in coverage of gun violence between low-income communities of color and more affluent majority-white communities.

“While it took tragedies like the Parkland [Fla. high school] and Las Vegas shootings to gather us here, I would like to remind everyone that communities of color in Philadelphia, Delaware, Berks, Dauphin, Cambria and Allegheny counties have been victims of gun violence for decades,” McClinton said during her testimony.

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New Philadelphia home-repair loan program available to residents in middle neighborhoods

January 18, 2018 | The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Caitlin McCabe

This summer, the city of Philadelphia will launch a $100 million initiative called the “Housing Preservation Loan Program.” Congratulations to Council President Darrell Clarke, as well as Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the Healthy Rowhouse and other housing advocates in the Philadelphia metro area! A feature of Housing Preservation Loan Program (much unlike a housing program implemented in Baltimore that used private lending loan pool) is that it draws from city resources and will provide low-interest loans at a 3% rate to thousands of its middle neighborhood residents with houses in disrepair. Currently, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that “more than 160,000 homes in the Philadelphia metro area experienced roof leaks. Nearly 120,000 had a crumbling foundation. At least 70,000 homes had mold.” And lastly, about 258,000 households reported experiencing many hours of “uncomfortable cold.” The Housing Preservation Loan Program will dole out up to $25,000 per applicant and contribute to other home-repair grant programs to alleviate the city’s housing problems.

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