2014: The Year PHA Ramped Up Development, Service & Resident Participation

(Philadelphia, PA - December 31, 2014) - For the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), 2014 will be remembered as the year that agency resumed its role as a major housing developer in the City; significantly increased housing opportunities especially for Veterans and the homeless under its Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program; and for the first time in its history, held a resident election for two commissioners for the agency's Board. 

"The new PHA is stronger than ever," said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA President and CEO.  "Our core values help drive our service to the City of Philadelphia as we create economic opportunities, safer neighborhoods, and quality affordable housing.  None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the steadfast support of the PHA Board of Commissioners, Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke, and PHA's dedicated employees.  I am excited about PHA's future, as we remain committed to adding to this already solid record of success in 2015."

Nearly a year ago, PHA declared that the transformation of the Blumberg/Sharswood neighborhood was the agency's number one priority.  A $500,000 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) supported PHA's unprecedented revitalization initiative.  The magnitude of this project required that the agency leverage federal funds with $700,000 from public/private partnerships.  The planning grant, coupled with the award of $1.5 million in a Community Development Block Grant from the City and 9 percent Low Income Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, makes the first Phase of Blumberg/Sharswood possible.

"PHA has worked in a collaborative manner with the City to bring much needed redevelopment to our core neighborhoods," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "Investments in quality affordable housing strengthen these communities and give residents hope for a brighter future."
PHA, the City of Philadelphia, and several other partners won a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from HUD to revitalize the North Central neighborhood around Temple University.  147 new and refurbished units at PHA's Norris Apartments site will be created as part of a plan for 297 total units.

The agency also started construction on four housing developments: the Oakdale Street and Gordon Street Apartments in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, and the Queen Lane and Queen's Row Apartments in Germantown.  These developments will be completed in 2015, adding 117 new affordable housing units to PHA's portfolio.

In its continuing efforts to cultivate public/private collaborations and increase affordable housing,  PHA's Board approved a deal in December with Pennrose Properties to build 96 housing units on two acres of vacant land at its Falls Ridge site in northwest Philadelphia.  Construction is expected to begin in 2015 and be completed in late 2016.

The construction at these sites will create 213 housing units at an estimated value of over $62 million.  The agency will also get more for its money based on a precedent-setting agreement reached in June with the Building and Construction Trades Council. The Project Labor Agreement enables the authority to build six family homes for the cost of five.

Additionally, in November, PHA's Board approved the purchase of 4 former schools for future use at the bargain price of $3 million.  The Communications Technology High School, George Pepper Middle School, and Rudolph Walton Elementary School will be developed for housing while the John Reynolds School will host a state-of-the-art grade school in the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.

The agency's Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program greatly increased the number of people it serves by providing vouchers to more than 1,800 families in Philadelphia, which increased the voucher utilization rate from 82 percent to over 87 percent between April and December, with the rate projected to hit 90 percent in the near future.  PHA also purged and updated its voucher waitlist to cut the number on it by more than half to 26,000 people The authority also awarded 13 new Project-Based contracts with private, nonprofit partners, creating over 300 new housing opportunities.

In April, PHA held its first ever election for Resident Commissioners.  Residents elected Asia Coney and Ethel Wise.  The election ensured that residents have input on planning and policy matters.  Resident commissioners have the same power as the other seven members of the Board, all of whom are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council.

In 2014, the authority also improved its record for contracting and subcontracting with Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MBEs/ WBEs).  The agency's participating rate for MBEs was 42 percent while the rate for WBEs was 33 percent, for the year-long period ending on September 30.  The federal standard is 20 percent for MBEs and 10 percent WBEs.

This year, PHA also set a precedent by receiving multiple agency and housing industry awards.  The Philadelphia Business Journal honored PHA President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah with its Minority Business Advocate award. The Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies honored the agency's PhillySEEDs program with the Bellamy Award, the highest award the organization can give, and also awarded a Certificate of Merit to PHA's revamped Pre-Apprenticeship Program.  Multifamily Executive Magazine also recognized PhillySEEDs with a Merit Award for Community Service.  The Pennsylvania Apartment Association recognized both the Plymouth Hall and Emlen Arms sites for maintenance services.  The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials recognized the LEED Gold Norris Apartments for outstanding achievement.