| No matter where in the
world you work, you want to have a nice place that you call home.
You also want to know how you're going to pay for it. So, visitors
from around the world came to PHA to see how we do it.
International housing finance experts from
21 nations took a first hand look at PHA's largest and most
ambitious development, Greater Grays Ferry Estates in South
Philadelphia, and came away informed and impressed.
The group of more than 70 people made
their visit as part of a two-week program at Penn's Wharton School
of Business. The visitors came from locations as diverse as
Azerbaijan to Finland to Thailand. They wanted to learn more about
the design and financing of PHA developments.
PHA Executive Director Carl Greene led the
group on a tour of the senior building at Greater Grays Ferry
Estates that highlighted the LIFE program. LIFE (Living
Independently for Elders) enables participants to live as
independently as possible through a full spectrum of services while
keeping them out of nursing homes and hospitals. LIFE is a program
of all-inclusive care for the elderly and is funded by Medicare and
The group also viewed the GGFE
neighborhood to get a feel for its design and layout, and then
traveled to the Wilson Park Community Center for a presentation by
Mr. Greene on the building and financing of the development. He
explained how PHA uses mixed finance (a combination of bonds and
tax credits) to build its new developments. The visiting experts
were intrigued by this idea, which is new to many foreign
PHA has one of the most aggressive real
estate development programs of any public housing agency in the
nation. Greene told the group how better design of developments
leads to lower crime rates, and how PHA is building houses for sale
at its redeveloped sites.
Larry English, an architect and planner for Habitat for Humanity
International working in Africa and the Middle East, praised the
design of Greater Grays Ferry Estates. He said the financing used
by PHA is intriguing and creative. "There's a lot that we could
learn from this that could be replicated in emerging economies such
as South Africa, Egypt, and Lebanon."
Akanji Olusegun Emmanuel, an investment
banker from Nigeria, believes that his government could use the
same methods as PHA to redevelop neighborhoods. He asked Michael
Johns, the agency's architect, for copies of the designs used in
the homes at Greater Grays Ferry Estates.
"It's such an amazing thing. If I could
show that kind of design to the government, show them in the
newspapers, talk about what I've seen here, we could ask for an
investment outreach," he said.
Emmanuel also said he found the homes to
be very simple structures with fantastic outcomes. He liked the
concept of combining a senior residential building with individual
homes in one neighborhood, allowing seniors the opportunity get
outside and move around.
Marja Hoek-Smit, who directs the
international housing finance group at Penn's Wharton School, said
she's a big fan of developments such as Greater Grays Ferry
"It makes you feel that you are part of
the normal city grid and of the normal city community," she said.
"Because you have provided community services like your elderly
home, people from the surrounding communities also come into your
neighborhood. So, I think that's an excellent recipe."
Hoek-Smit said communities like Greater
Grays Ferry Estates that contain rental and homeownership units are
the way forward for public housing.
PHA Executive Director Carl Greene led a group
of international housing finance experts from 21
countries on a tour of Greater Grays Ferry Estates in South
Philadelphia. He told the group how better design of
developments leads to lower crime rates.
Akanji Olusegun Emmanuel, an investment banker from Nigeria,
believes that his government could use the same methods as PHA to
redevelop neighborhoods. He said the designs used by the agency are
PHA Executive Director Carl Greene told the group how
the agency uses mixed finance to pay for new
developments. The visiting experts were intrigued by this
idea, which is new to many foreign governments.