Community Visions: Suburban housing renews PHA efforts

The president’s stimulus package contains funds that could revitalize PHA’s suburban-style communities.

Suburbia in the city has been achieved.

Built in 2007, Ludlow Homes, a 22 square-block public housing development, has improved the area encompassing Sixth to Eighth streets and from Girard to Montgomery avenues. Now, where there once stood vacant and deteriorating buildings are houses with white picket fences and porches.

The Ludlow neighborhood was built despite the Bush administration’s budget cuts for federally funded public housing sectors.

Under the administration’s negligence, the Philadelphia Housing Authority was forced to lay off nearly one-fourth of its workforce and was unable to house as many families, said Kirk Dorn, former general manager of communications for PHA.

But now, a possible $16 billion will be allotted for the country’s public housing system under the highly debated stimulus package, allowing PHA to increase its services.

It is imperative that the federal government doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

While some Americans frown upon spending tax dollars to fund lower-income households, people are often prevented from earning upper-class salaries due to poor socioeconomic conditions.

In Philadelphia, a city reported to be the ninth-poorest in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau, PHA has actively been involved in promoting responsible renters and revitalizing blighted neighborhoods. PHA provides public housing to low-income families, allowing them to live in mixed-income communities.

Public housing is not a government freebie. Renters are required to pay 30 percent of their incomes to PHA. If they do not comply with contractual agreement, they are first given a notice and then evicted.
In 2002, nearly 99 percent of rent roll was collected. With today’s distressed economy, that percentage has fallen to 94 percent, and PHA is still cushioning a hard financial fall for many.

Though Ludlow has low-income rentals and moderate-income homes for sale, each house is of the same quality, Dorn said.

“We don’t want renters who are low-income to be stigmatized by living in inferior houses,” Dorn said.
Older developments such as Norris Homes, located behind Gladfelter Hall, are used as homeowner training sites for Philadelphians leaving transitional housing.

In connection with Philadelphia’s Blueprint to End Homelessness, PHA offers less modernized housing to individuals recovering from drug addictions and criminal backgrounds.

Crime rates are known to decline in areas where PHA builds. With two sites near Main Campus, PHA has made the surrounding community safer for students.

“Where there’s bad areas, private investors won’t go due to making no profit,” Dorn said. “The neighborhoods are desolate, vacant and abandoned areas with high crime. We rebuild distressed neighborhoods.”

PHA cannot solve all of Philadelphia’s problems, and though its budget is the fourth-largest in the country, totaling $347 million, it is merely pocket change for this big city.

With 16,000 people on a waiting list for PHA rentals and dozens of abandoned buildings across the city, the solution is a no-brainer.

Ashley Nguyen can be reached at

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