Progressive coalition looks to promote ‘development without displacement’

A coalition of nonprofit community and religious organizations from across the city is launching a new campaign aimed at preserving affordable housing in communities undergoing gentrification.

The group is now calling itself the Philadelphia Affordable Communities Coalition; it is formed largely of the same organizations that pushed for the establishment of a Land Bank and, earlier, for the creation of the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. Its new campaign is called Development Without Displacement.

“Inspired by recent legislative accomplishments by member groups, The Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities (PCAC) will craft and advocate for legislation to ensure that as the city’s neighborhoods recover and thrive, individuals and families from all income levels benefit,” the group said Thursday in a press release.

At this point, the group is focused on looking to policies enacted in other cities that foster equitable development and help prevent the displacement of poor, disabled, and elderly residents from gentrifying areas. It does not yet have a specific policy agenda, but the timing of the campaign is intended to coincide with the local elections taking place over the next year.

The group’s goal is to get City Council members and candidates to support specific legislation that would increase the resources dedicated to preserving affordable housing, access to fresh and local food and other community-serving land uses. That legislation hasn’t been developed yet.

“We really want to be careful that it generates a sufficient amount of resources and doesn’t hurt the development community,” said Nora Lichtash, a coalition member and director of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project.

The Land Bank ensures that vacant land can be acquired and repurposed for community use, Lichtash said, but more resources are needed to actually establish affordable housing and other community uses on reclaimed land.

One preliminary idea is to impose a tax on house-flipping, which is seen as a practice that accelerates the increase of housing costs. Lichtash said the group has asked Econsult, the local economics consulting organization, to look at ways to mitigate gentrification without harming the real estate market.

“We’re not against gentrification, but it’s got to be inclusive,” said Nancy Salandra of Liberty Resources, an organization focused on independent living for people with disabilities. “ … It’s not saying no to gentrification, but it’s saying let’s look at the whole community.”  

“We want all communities to have what’s needed to stay in their backyard,” Salandra said.

Currently, the coalition consists of the following groups:

  • Women’s Community Revitalization Project

  • United Food and Commercial Workers

  • East Park Revitalization Alliance

  • Firm Hope Baptist Church

  • Disabled In Action

  • Liberty Resources

  • Circle of Hope

  • AFSCME District Council 47

  • United Communities of Southeast Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia Jobs With Justice

  • Kensington Renewal

  • Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice

  • All That Philly Jazz

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