New senior housing in Strawberry Mansion hailed as example worth repeating

Local officials pose for a ribbon-cutting at an affordable housing cvomplex

The 78-unit complex is being hailed as a model for providing seniors affordable, maintenance-free housing. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A new senior housing facility in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia is being touted as a shining example of how to provide affordable housing for older residents.

The Susquehanna Residences on Fletcher Street stands on the site of a former equestrian facility, whose former owner is now one of the residents. The building’s 78 units were subsidized by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which allocated $6.5 million to help cover construction costs.

PHA Executive Director Kelvin Jeremiah said the homes are a fitting example of how to create affordable housing for senior citizens. Jeremiah recalled a fatal January rowhouse fire that claimed the lives of 12 people, pointing to the lack of affordable housing in the city. He said spending on affordable housing “has not been a priority in the Commonwealth.”

The Susquehanna Residences alone has almost 700 people on its waiting list.

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Jeremiah supported state Sen. Vincent Hughes’ proposal to spend more than $2 billion of the state’s surplus for more affordable housing, not just in Philadelphia, but across Pennsylvania.

The Commonwealth spends between $40 million and $60 million each year on affordable housing. State Sen. Hughes said underspending on affordable housing is a phenomenon that happens across the country, adding that “it’s our responsibility to step into the breach.”

City Council President Darrell Clarke also joined the call for more funding. He said the elderly become stuck in their aging homes because they cannot find quality homes without maintenance worries.

Clarke said Susquehanna Residences is an example of how the city needs to “stay committed” to providing this type of housing for seniors. He said that, in turn, could free up homes for ownership by younger people who can more easily tackle the necessary maintenance of older structures.

Among the residents who spoke at the ribbon-cutting was Michael Wilson. As a returning citizen, Wilson said it hasn’t been easy finding quality housing. He added that he and his husband Jeffrey are happy to be in the new facility.

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Nelson Wanamaker said the building is a sign of major redevelopment in the area, including Strawberry Mansion and Francisville.

Tonnetta Graham, of the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation, urged the new residents to participate fully in the community.

“You have a school right across the street, [you can] look out your windows every now and again during school hours, dismissal, and arrival, so you can make sure our kids are safe,” Graham said. “You can create a safe corridor right here.”

Graham added it took a decade to construct the facility because neighbors wanted to be a part of the planning process. She said the time was worth it, though, because the development came out great.

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