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Philly’s Assessment of Fair Housing Report: What you need to know

And now the city wants your input

The City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Housing Authority dropped a doozy of a report yesterday afternoon regarding its assessment of fair housing. In a staggering 758 pages, the report is a collection of a wealth of data and community input that takes a deep dive into the city’s fair housing issues, including whether one’s home offers access to opportunity, in the city.

Because there are 758 pages (and maps. So many maps.) to pour over, we answered some questions you might have and broke down some key findings from the report.

Why did the city release this report in the first place?

It was required by law to do so. In 2015, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule was adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was an overhaul of an older regulatory structure to provide more explicit, better guidance to grantees on what HUD expects when they assess fair housing conditions in various cities.

What is fair housing?

It’s a law that protects people from discrimination when they are buying a house or renting an apartment, or applying for a loan to do so, based on their race, color, religion, sex, etc. In addition, the AFH rule’s goal is to provide “fair opportunity” to—access to good education, jobs, and other opportunity from their home base.

How did Philly assess its fair housing?

First, HUD provided it and a whole bunch of other cities with data on their respective locations, ranging from demographic, segregation, and population trends to homeownership and rental rates. The city also consulted with the community, sending out an online survey that received about 6,000 responses from residents. It also hosted five community focus groups and meetings with stakeholders involved with certain housing projects in the city.

What did they learn from all of that analysis?

In yesterday’s announcement, director of the city’s Office of Planning and Development Anne Fadullon said, “People told us they want a balanced approach to housing and opportunity.”

Many challenges were highlighted, but here are just a few of them.

  • Some 250,000 households face at least one housing problem, including lack of affordable housing or overcrowding. In fact, the current supply of public affordable housing in Philly meets just 12 percent of the city’s actual need for housing assistance.
  • The neighborhoods most in need of affordable housing are located in North Philly. Here, many people spend more than 50 percent of their income just on rent.

  • Other challenges included lack of access to education and jobs, both of which tend to hit certain poverty-stricken neighborhoods hardest and contribute to segregation.
  • Despite consistent population growth over the past few years, Philly’s 25.4 percent poverty rate is still the highest out of all major U.S. cities.

What is the city going to do about it?

They’ve presented a long list of goals to address the problems revealed during their local analysis.

Expand fair housing outreach, education and enforcement

Ensure open access to all housing resources and programs

Preserve existing affordable rental housing

Develop new affordable rental housing opportunities

Preserve existing affordable homeownership

Develop new affordable homeownership opportunities

Expand accessible and affordable housing for persons with disabilities

Expand permanent housing for homeless and special needs populations

Use a coordinated approach to invest in struggling communities

Enhance and expand resident mobility

Do I have a say in those goals?

Yes. The release of the report marks the start of a public comment period that ends on December 12. The city will host two public hearings on the report on November 17 where you can voice your thoughts and concerns:

  • 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Philadelphia Housing Authority, 12 South 23rd Street, 6th Floor
  • 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.: City of Philadelphia Department of Housing and Community Development, 1234 Market Street, 3rd Floor

You can also send an email to info.dhcd@phila.gov.

Then what?

The city will then adopt its AFH, becoming the first major city to do so under the new law. But it won’t be easy to accomplish all of those goals. Why? Not enough money. The city’s Division of Housing and Community Development’s federal funding was slashed by 50 percent last year, and that’s not subject to change under the new law, according to the report. Says Fadullon, “Our challenge is to work with partners to identify new strategies to address the housing and community needs of our residents.”

You can read the full report over at Philadelphia Housing Authority’s website.