City Council passes measure that gives city workers affordable housing preference

Philadelphia City Hall is visible in a view of the Philadelphia skyline.

City Hall is visible in a view of the Philadelphia skyline. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

Certain municipal workers in Philadelphia will now have a competitive advantage when workforce housing units hit the market.

Lawmakers passed the bill on Thursday as the city prepares to build at least 1,000 units of workforce housing under the banner of the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, the massive bond-backed program initiated by Council President Darrell Clarke. The initiative is an effort to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing, revive commercial corridors, and improve neighborhood infrastructure, among other priorities.

The news also comes as Philadelphia continues to contend with an affordable housing crisis and a tight housing market that has kept home prices high. Incomes here have failed to keep pace, putting homeownership out of reach for more and more working residents.

“As more and more neighborhoods gentrify, the price of buying a home escalates. For a city municipal workforce that largely is required to reside in Philadelphia, it’s only fair and equitable to provide a housing preference for income-qualified city employees,” said Clarke in a statement.

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Among the employees set to benefit from the bill are members of Philadelphia’s blue-collar city worker union — District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The union represents roughly 10,000 municipal employees, including sanitation workers.

“I can’t wait to put that message out there so people can get things together to try to qualify for this program,” said president Ernest Garrett late last month.

Workforce housing is a term typically used to describe homes priced to be affordable to middle-income households —households earning between 60% and 120% of the area median income. For a family of four, that translates to between $56,700 and $113,400 a year.

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In Philadelphia, the NPI homes will be priced at between $190,000 and $230,000, firmly below the city’s median home price.

They’ll be built on public land by private developers on a rolling basis. Construction on some of the first homes, most of which will have three bedrooms, is expected to start in the coming months.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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