PHA Highlights 2015 Successes, Challenges for 2016

(PHILADELPHIA, December 29, 2015) - As 2015 draws to a close, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is highlighting its many successful efforts over the past year, while focusing with renewed energy and commitment on upcoming challenges. 

"Providing affordable housing opportunities and supportive services to low income families and seniors is at the heart of PHA's mission," said PHA President & CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah, noting substantial progress in four specific areas: 1) housing our nation's veterans; 2) preventing and reducing homelessness; 3) revitalizing neighborhoods; and 4) supporting families and communities.  

Housing Our Nation's Veterans:
In December of 2015, Philadelphia was acknowledged for its success in effectively ending veterans' homelessness.  Working closely with the Philly Vets Home Coalition and the federal government, PHA was a central player in this tremendous effort, which began in August of 2013. 
This year alone, PHA housed nearly 200 veterans through the VASH program.

Preventing and Reducing Homelessness:
As a partner in the City's Blueprint to End Homelessness program, PHA makes available up to 500 housing opportunities for formerly homeless families and individuals every year and is committed to house an additional 500 families and individuals each year through June 2018.

PHA has expanded the number of housing vouchers by more than 3,000, and has worked with the City and agency partners to provide permanent housing to approximately 2,000 families and individuals from homeless shelters and transitional housing systems.  Today, PHA supports over 18,000 families in the housing choice voucher program.

Revitalizing Neighborhoods:
In responding to distressed conditions that exist at several public housing developments, PHA uses a holistic approach designed to spur neighborhood-wide revitalization, leverage private capital, transform housing conditions, and promote healthy, vibrant communities. 
In 2015, PHA proceeded with several major redevelopment initiatives that are already generating positive impacts for families, the surrounding neighborhood, and the regional economy.

In the Germantown neighborhood, 2015 PHA opened the new Queen Lane Apartments, a $22 million development that replaced an outdated and distressed high-rise development. 

"This incredibly challenging project required PHA to listen carefully and respond to community concerns with sensitivity and creativity-balancing the need to develop affordable housing while respecting and preserving our historical heritage," said Jeremiah.  "The resulting project is one that we can all be proud of and will be a community asset for generations to come."

PHA also spearheaded a community-wide effort to transform the blighted Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood.  The planning effort was supported by a $500,000 federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Planning Grant and resulted in a Transformation Plan for community revitalization and the development of more than 1,200 mixed income rental and homeownership units, to include new commercial and educational facilities, an employment readiness program, and small business development, along with other services designed to benefit both existing and new residents.  

PHA is already putting the Transformation Plan into action.  Financing has been secured and construction began in August on the first phase consisting of 57 rental units.  PHA has also created the Sharswood Small Business Fund to encourage the improvement and expansion of businesses on Ridge Avenue with a $75,000 grant from the Santander Bank Foundation, $150,000 in consulting services from the Enterprise Center, $100,000 grant from the City Department of Commerce, and $175,000 in loan funds from the Small Business Association
for a $500,000 program available for current and new businesses. 

PHA also continued its collaboration with the City and residents of the North Central Philadelphia neighborhood as part of a comprehensive transformation initiative.  PHA continued its collaborative efforts by focusing on replacement of the distressed North Central Philadelphia Norris Homes public housing development, neighborhood construction of 237 new rental and 60 affordable homeownership units, and the completion of an array of neighborhood improvements, partially funded by a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation Grant.  

In the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, PHA opened two new developments, the Oakdale Street Apartments and Gordon Apartments. The 33 new rental apartments are a part of a larger effort to spur revitalization of this neighborhood, and another 55 apartments are planned for 2016.

With a backlog of over $1 billion in capital needs at existing sites, PHA is moving to preserve or create more than 3,800 units (including more than 900 new units to replace the many scattered site units that PHA has lost over time as a result of inadequate funding), through participation in the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, to generate nearly $100 million in private capital funds. 

Supporting Families and Communities:
PHA complements and leverages its "bricks and mortar" housing preservation and development efforts with programs and initiatives that address the root causes of poverty and help the communities in and around PHA housing developments to thrive.  PHA works collaboratively to remove obstacles and expand economic opportunity, by expanding business opportunities, improving educational outcomes for PHA residents, and supporting families in achieving economic self-sufficiency.

Expansion of youth development efforts included an early childhood education partnership to increase Head Start enrollment, Summer Camp and food programs, computer labs, and college scholarships to 55 PHA residents. 

In 2015, PHA received a $2.7 million grant under the federal Jobs Plus Initiative, to provide employment readiness, job placement, financial literacy, and other services.  Jobs Plus builds on and supports other job readiness, job placement, and other resident initiatives that PHA undertook citywide in 2015 and plans to continue into the future.

"PHA is primarily known as a housing provider, but we also function as one of the City's largest supportive service agencies," noted Jeremiah.  "While we need to keep our primary focus on providing quality housing, it's essential that PHA work with residents, local institutions, and non-profits to remove obstacles and expand economic opportunity.

In 2015, PHA produced measurable, positive results and helped improve the lives of thousands of Philadelphia residents, against a backdrop of diminished federal support. 

"For me, and the new PHA, housing is an essential need and at its core, is about human decency. I would like to thank HUD Secretary Julian Castro and his staff, Mayor Michael Nutter and his staff, Council President Darrell Clarke and the City Council, our federal, state, and local elected officials and the staffs, PHA's Board of Commissioners, and especially the PHA staff and residents for all their hard work and support in making PHA a strong and vibrant public benefit organization," said Jeremiah.  "Simply put, we could not have achieved these successes without your dedication and support." 

Working along with partners and the new City administration, PHA has a solid foundation to achieve even greater progress in 2016 and beyond.