International Visitors taking PHA lessons home
    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 Medicaid. 

    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 governments. 

    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 Estates. 

    "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 amazing.


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.