Philadelphia City Council last week released an independent analysis of poverty in Philadelphia and announced new legislation that will increase housing security for low-income people.
The report, Narrowing the Gap: Strategies to Alleviate and Prevent Poverty in Philadelphia, was produced by HR&A Advisors, Inc., an economic development and strategic initiatives consulting firm serving national and international clients.
Commissioned by Council following a Request for Proposals process in 2018, “Narrowing the Gap” analyzes housing security and equity; economic inequality, employment, and workers’ protections; and financial services and benefits programs to support people who are living in poverty or are at risk of falling into poverty. Organizations including Project HOME and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) offered research and analysis to inform “Narrowing the Gap.”
“Poverty is one of the most serious challenges facing the City of Philadelphia. We must find innovative and effective ways to narrow the income gap to truly make Philadelphia a first-class City fostering an inclusive economy that offers meaningful opportunities for all our citizens to succeed,” Sister Mary Scullion, President and Executive Director of Project HOME, said.
Council members including President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), and Councilmember Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) announced new legislation to strengthen tenants’ rights to reduce evictions and to attach affordable housing requirements to certain public land sales. The bills are the first legislative responses to “Narrow the Gap,” with additional proposals for job creation and fair working conditions expected to come.
“The lack of legal representation has unfortunately allowed unjust evictions to rise in Philadelphia,” Councilmember Blackwell said. “We are taking action by proposing a legal fund for low-income tenants in order to meet growing demand. We are also establishing Fair Chance Housing Legislation to support returning citizens. We hope to work with tenants’ rights organizations and property owners to establish a fairer balance of power between landlords and tenants.”
Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez said: “To ensure equitable development throughout the city, we must tackle poverty directly and comprehensively. Philadelphia City government should not support any private development that might contribute to raised rents and home prices without getting something in return for underserved communities. I am excited to use this research to inform new legislation and policies to reduce our poverty rate, and look forward to working with Council and the Kenney Administration on a Fiscal Year 2020 budget plan that helps us become a fairer and more equitable City.”
Council President Clarke added: “This report compiles much of what we already know about generational poverty, and its perniciousness, and offers multiple blueprints for legislative and policy remedies. I have long believed that we should strengthen affordable housing development incentives including by tying any City support for private projects to hard affordable and inclusionary housing commitments. I look forward to working with my colleagues on Council and supporters of a fair and just economy toward a Philadelphia in which everyone, no matter their circumstances, has an opportunity to live in good health, safety, and stability.”
“Providing affordable, healthy housing in great neighborhoods should be at the top of every city’s anti-poverty agenda. Research shows that securing good housing can help kids perform better in school, and can help break generational cycles of poverty,” said Rick Sauer, Executive Director of PACDC. “Stable housing can also lead to improved health outcomes, allowing individuals to focus on other aspects of their lives that can lead to self-sufficiency. City Council and the Kenney Administration have made important progress by boosting funding to the Housing Trust Fund, but the need surpasses available resources by magnitudes. PACDC supports many of the recommendations in the ‘Narrowing the Gap’ report, and looks forward to working with Council, the Administration, and other stakeholders to make them a reality.”
Andrea Batista Schlesinger, partner at HR&A Advisors, concluded: “The benefits of Philadelphia’s recent economic growth have not been equally shared and poverty remains entrenched. The City Council tasked us with identifying promising ideas from around the globe that could tackle this profound challenge. We do not presume that these ideas are a comprehensive solution to poverty, nor do we believe they are the only solution. Nevertheless, we hope that these ideas can serve as an effective playbook for the Council as it works alongside the City, and were honored to be chosen for the assignment.”
Ordinances establishing a Low-Income Tenant Legal Defense Fund, Fair Chance Housing for returning citizens, and affordable housing requirements for certain public land dispositions were introduced in Council on Thursday, March 7, 2019.
Read the full report on poverty in Philadelphia: Narrowing the Gap Report