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Policy Wonks and Public Officials Debate the Affordable Housing Initiative: Here's Your Roundup

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Last week, City Council announced their plan to use city-owned land to create 1,500 new units of affordable housing, 1,000 of which would be affordable rentals. Though the plan is designed to address a real need for affordable housing within Philly, critics say that it's just not clear enough.

The announcement of the initiative, which occurred last Tuesday focused on the need for affordable housing, and the benefits of redeveloping publicly owned land.

Then, John Kromer, Philly's former Director of Housing took issue with the plan. Comparing it to the underwhelming Neighborhood Transformation Initiative which was part of Mayor John Street's election campaign in 1999. Kromer said that both plans lack one official leader, that they both overextend resources without identifying specific plans for transforming neighborhoods, and that they both lack a formal community engagement process. Kromer suggests that this new plan is more a political move on Council President Clarke's part than it is an effective plan to redevelop neighborhoods or create affordable housing.

In response, Coucilwoman Marian Tasco wrote that Kromer misunderstood the essential nature of the Affordable Housing Initiative. She said:

"City Council's Affordable Housing Initiative is designed to address the problems of growing economic segregation among Philadelphia's neighborhoods and a severe shortage in affordable housing. It seeks to leverage underutilized subsidies and the City's ample supply of publicly owned vacant properties to rapidly develop new affordable housing units. It is a development initiative, whereas NTI was a pre-development program that targeted blight, vacant lots and structures that posed immediate danger to residents." Yesterday, John Kromer responded to Councilwoman Tasco that though the NTI may have announced itself as a pre-development program, and the Affordable Housing Initiative calls itself a development initiative, they are more similar than the Councilwoman admits.

Today, a UPenn grad student and Phd candidate, Ken Steif, jumped into the fray, defending the affordable housing initiative as a good way to get lower-income kids into better funded public schools, but also stressed that the devil was still in the details.
· Philly Desperately Needs More Affordable Housing: Is City Council Stepping Up? [Curbed Philly]