New affordable housing units are coming to Grays Ferry and Point Breeze

At least 1,000 new homes will be built, under the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative. The goal is to turn middle income renters into first-time homebuyers.

City and elected officials break ground on eight new homes for middle income residents. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY News)

City and elected officials break ground on eight new homes for middle income residents. (Aaron Moselle/WHYY News)

More than two dozen new homes will rise in South Philadelphia as part of a larger affordable housing initiative launched at the end of April.

The three-bedroom homes will be built in gentrifying sections of Grays Ferry and Point Breeze through the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, the massive bond-backed program initiated by Council President Darrell Clarke to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing, revive commercial corridors, and improve neighborhood infrastructure, among other priorities.

Under the Turn the Key program, homes will be listed for $230,000 with the opportunity to apply for a soft loan of up to $75,000. The median sale price in both neighborhoods hovers around $500,000.

“Working class people will have an opportunity to buy a home in this neighborhood at a great price,” City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson said during a groundbreaking ceremony held Monday afternoon near 30th and Wharton Streets.

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There, eight homes will be built on a large and long vacant city lot, with construction slated to start before the end of the year. Longtime resident Charles Reeves said the project has the power to change how people see their neighborhood.

“It presents a future. It makes people care about their community,” said Reeves, president of Tasker-Morris Neighborhood Association, after the event.

Amid an affordable housing crisis, the city has committed to building at least 1,000 homes on an equal number of city-owned parcels that are currently contributing to Philadelphia’s blight problem.

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Under a new city ordinance, certain city workers will get a buying preference as the homes hit the market. To qualify, applicants must earn no more than 100% of the area median income, which translates to $105,400 for a family of four. AMI is based on incomes in the Philadelphia region, not just the city itself.

Participating developers, who will be incentivized in the form of nominally-priced land, will ultimately decide which applicants become first-time homebuyers. The goal is to fill the properties with people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to own, including residents who are renting in the neighborhoods where the homes are being built.

Clarke said the Turn the Key program ensures that “affordability is not just a phrase.”

During its first of four years, NPI has also helped fund the city’s Basic Systems Repair Program, Eviction Diversion Program, and the Philly First Home program.

The $400 million initiative is also supporting efforts to untangle titles; preserve affordable rental units; create housing for the homeless; and bolster commercial corridors.

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