Philly Housing Authority gets thousands to help residents become more self-sufficient

Tommi Spriggs tells her story to Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Tommi Spriggs tells her story to Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Housing Authority has received new federal funding for a program that helps its low-income residents work toward homeownership.

At a Thursday press conference in North Philadelphia, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced a $360,000 grant for PHA’s Family Self-Sufficiency program. The money will be added to the agency’s $292,000 contribution for this fiscal year.

“We’re looking for ways to motivate people and to give them the assistance necessary in order to climb the ladders of opportunity,” said Carson in an interview.

Program participants work with experts to reduce debt and improve their credit scores with the goal of making a down payment on a home of their own.

The overall aim is to help residents increase their income as they decrease their dependency on public assistance and rent subsidies.

“The American dream is really for everybody,” Carson said. “There’s not a section of people who should be left out.”

Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, tours the new PHA headquarters in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Nearly 350 PHA residents enrolled in the program last year. The agency serves nearly 80,000 Philadelphians.

Rashida Peoples and her family lived in a PHA property for 13 years before she bought a West Philadelphia home in 2017.

Peoples said participating in the program inspired her to pursue her dream of being a homeowner instead of a tenant. It helped her boost her credit score enough to qualify to purchase her home.

She couldn’t be happier.

“When it’s your own, you can do what you want, everybody’s happy, and you feel a sense of relief that you finally made it to this point,” Peoples said. “You set a goal, and you’ve accomplished that goal.

“I’m enjoying it,” she said.

HUD is handing out $74 million to nearly 700 housing agencies across the country to support similar programs.

Nearly $2 million will go to housing agencies in Pennsylvania.

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