Some Philly Council members vowing to support residents in path of gentrification

On York Street in East Kensington, a rowhome towers above its neighbors. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

On York Street in East Kensington, a rowhome towers above its neighbors. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Gentrification in some Philadelphia neighborhoods is sparking pushback from a few city leaders who vow to make sure the concerns of longtime residents are heard.

That goal was expressed by several City Council members who spoke Monday at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

The changing economy is making real estate more valuable in Pennsylvania and especially in Philadelphia. Councilman Curtis Jones said he’s seen it in many city neighborhoods — including his own.

“I welcome all people of all creeds and colors into my neighborhood, but if you do not have a secession plan, gentrification happens, because market forces are ruthless,” he said.

Jones said he first noticed the trend in South Philadelphia, then the area around Temple University. Now, he said, it’s citywide. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson concurred that he’s seeing it in his Point Breeze neighborhood.

One section of his district “has experienced an influx of primarily Caucasian families” who are replacing African-American residents,  Johnson said.

The Council members and others vowed to fight to keep people who are being priced out of their neighborhoods in their homes. One alternative, they said, would be a lease-to-own plan for those who cannot afford a down payment.

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