Francisville: Local construction benefits community socially and economically

By Kyle Gauss and Matthew Pitts
For Philadelphia Neighborhoods

It’s hard to walk through the Francisville area without noticing the sudden upswing of construction. It seems that almost every block is experiencing an influx of new houses or newly renovated properties. While some members of the community find this to be a nuisance, the facts show that the community greatly benefits from the new construction.

A sign advertised new condominiums in the Francisville area.

While one may assume that the only beneficiaries of the newly constructed or newly renovated houses are the seller and the buyer, studies have shown that development and redevelopment of properties directly positively affect the surrounding communities, both practically and fiscally.

“It has been shown that if you can reduce the vacancy on a block to under 10 percent, you will stabilize that block,” said Jill Roberts, Community Development Project Manager of Project H.O.M.E said. “There’s a far less chance of that block falling into disrepair and being blighted and so forth. There have been countless studies about vacant homes and how they pull down housing values and they blight neighborhoods. If you’re putting people in homes and you’re renovating homes, you’re stabilizing that block and therefore you have a cohesive unit in a safe, healthy place for people to live.”

A house in Francisville undergoes a renovation.

Roberts’ organization, which offers a number of community-driven programs, including one that helps to build or renovate properties for first-time homeowners, receives its funding through a number of sources, which includes both the state and federal government, as well as private lenders. The source of the funding may vary, but the majority of the time, the provider requires that the block the house is located on to end up underneath a certain vacancy threshold.

“A lot of the funding that we get in order to renovate homes, it will say that at the end of this project, the vacancy on the block can not be more than X percent,” Roberts said. “Some are 10 percent, some are zero. Some say that there can be no vacancy on the block. When you get to 100 percent occupancy, you have a really stable place. It encourages people to maintain the block, it encourages people to take stake and ownership in that area. Maybe not just that block, but the blocks around them.”

“If there’s a vacant lot down the corner, they drive past it and they think it’s ridiculous,” Roberts added. “Why would they want to look at that vacant lot? It happens kind of naturally.”

The recent renovations and new construction has drastically affected the real estate market. While the average property value of Francisville is $95,700, neighborhood properties have recently been posted on the real estate site Trulia.com ranging from $349,900 to $479,500. The potential for a higher-income-based neighborhood might appeal to some, but not to certain members of the community.

“What do we, the people of the community, get out of it?” said Najir Geordan, a member of YOUTHSTARS, a locally based community service organization. “It doesn’t matter what ethnic persuasion. I’d like to see some of my own people getting involved in the projects.

Najir Geordan, a member of YOUTHSTARS, said he has concerns about the construction in Francisville.

“One of the things that’s important to me is how do they get the progress to where they’re at?” Geordan said. “What is it that somebody’s getting that I’m missing? We’re missing a lot that we’re just not getting.”

While Geordan has complaints regarding the social benefits of the redevelopment, the buildings directly benefit the community, at least financially.

According to a 2001 study by Temple University, houses within Philadelphia that are within 150 feet of a vacant or abandoned property experienced an average net loss of $7,627 in value. Houses between 150 and 299 feet suffer an average net loss of $6,819 while houses within 300 to 449 feet suffer an average net loss of $3,542 According to the 2010 census, 1,468 vacant or abandoned properties exist within Francisville. The median value of an owned house within Francisville is $95,700. For moderation sake, assuming that if an owned house is located at the medium distance of 150 to 299 feet from an abandoned property, that home’s value will have decreased by 7.13 percent.

Aside from distance, the number of abandoned houses on a block also has a direct impact on the value of properties in the immediate area. If the block has one abandoned property, the average net impact on sales price is a loss of $6,468. This figure escalates until the number of abandoned properties on the block reaches five, at which point the average net loss on sales prices is $10,043. With these figures in mind, it’s easy to see how, from a strictly financial standpoint, redevelopment affects the existing homeowners.

In order for the redevelopment of Francisville to be successful, both the financially minded and the socially minded members of the community will have to learn to work together, Roberts said.

“With the cooperation of the community, we are able to have a successful project,” Roberts said.

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