Turn the Key breaks ground on 17th affordable housing complex in Grays Ferry

Developments like these can help bring more Black and brown homeowners to the area, says one local developer.

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Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker and Dawud Bey, owner of Fine Print Construction

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker congratulates Dawud Bey, owner of Fine Print Construction and a participant in the MDP program at a ceremonial groundbreaking on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Almost 100 community members gathered around Dover Street in Philadelphia’s Grays Ferry neighborhood Tuesday for the groundbreaking of Turn the Key’s new affordable housing complex.

Under a white tent, shovels stood in a wooden box full of dirt at the center of a rolled-out red carpet. It was the first groundbreaking under Mayor Cherelle Parker’s administration, and the first collaboration with developer Dawud Bey, owner of Fine Point Construction and a graduate of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation’s Minority Developer Program.

“This community was rough,” Bey said. “I lived in this community for 55 years and I never stepped foot on 29th and Tasker because there used to be so much racial tension.”

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Dawud Bey, the owner of Fine Print Construction
Dawud Bey, the owner of Fine Print Construction, participated in the PHDC Minority Developer Program and was celebrated at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Philadelphia’s Grays Ferry neighborhood on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

But Bey, who was formerly incarcerated, said he sees this as a chance to work against gentrification seen in other predominantly Black communities across the city. He believes developments like these can help the neighborhood not only by bringing more Black and brown homeowners to the area, but also by supporting the mission of diversifying who becomes a homeowner.

However, Grays Ferry residents shared mixed reactions when they heard about the new development. In a previous WHYY News report, some people said they were concerned whether new houses, costing an average of $280,000, match what people can afford.

Recently, homes in that area have sold for between $174,000 and $210,000, according to Redfin.

Grays Ferry
Homes in Philadelphia’s Grays Ferry neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Angel Rodriguez, executive director of the Land Bank, an independently run branch that acquires and sells vacant lots, said Turn the Key’s program offsets some of those costs with lower mortgage payments and interest rates, which can alleviate the cost burden on a family. And while houses developed by the program are priced at $280,000, the real cost is lower when financed through partner programs.

“We’re working with our partner lenders to drop that interest rate,” Rodriguez said. “So your monthly [payment] becomes much more affordable than if you rented a house.”

Angel Rodriquez, executive director of the Philadelphia Land Bank and VP of Land Services for PHDC
Angel Rodriquez, executive director of the Philadelphia Land Bank and VP of land services for PHDC, spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking of a Turn the Key development in Grays Ferry on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Rodriguez put it like this: Rent in the neighborhood is $2,600 for a three-bedroom, two-bath house. By contrast, a mortgage payment would cost $1,350.

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City Council President Kenyatta Johnson said partnering programs, such as the Accelerator Program and Minority Developer Program, carve a way to financing. Johnson said access to capital is the number one barrier for minority developers and contractors.

Mo Rushdy, president of the Philadelphia Building Industry Association and chair of the Philadelphia Accelerator Fund, agrees. Over the years, he became known for being a developer in Fishtown, but later his focus was on housing equity.

For him, it begins with who builds and where.

“We’ve leveraged over $15 million… from Penn Community Bank to bring in all that money towards Black and brown developers to develop affordable housing,” Rushdy said. “It’s a win-win-win situation.”

Mo Rushdy, owner of the Riverwards development group
Mo Rushdy is the owner of the Riverwards development group. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Turn the Key’s mission is to widen access for people building homes that more people can afford.

According to the PHDC website, to date, the city has “approved construction of over 700 homes on vacant publicly owned land. Over 200 are currently under construction and nearly 50 are under agreement or sold.”

David Thomas, PHDC’s CEO, said a home means stability and that owning one is a stepping stone toward generational wealth.

“Homeownership is the cornerstone to that wealth,” Thomas said.

Interested first-time homebuyers can apply to Turn the Key’s home buyer program. Contractors and developers who wish to apply to the Minority Developer Program can find more information online.

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