The Philadelphia Inquirer: HUD announces $50M investment in Southwest Philly for affordable housing and community development

Apart from replacing existing housing units in Bartram Village, the Philadelphia Housing Authority said it wants to provide affordable homeownership and reinvigorate a community commercial corridor.

(From left) Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, Rep. Dwight Evans, PHA's Kelvin Jeremiah, HUD's Richard Monocchio and members of the community at a ceremony to give $50 million to PHA's Bartram Village.
(From left) Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, Rep. Dwight Evans, PHA’s Kelvin Jeremiah, HUD’s Richard Monocchio and members of the community at a ceremony to give $50 million to PHA’s Bartram Village.Read moreJosef Wirnshofer / Josef Wirnshofer

Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made a visit to Southwest Philadelphia Friday to announce a $50 million investment in affordable housing and community development.

For the third time, the city and Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) have been awarded a “Choice Neighborhood Implementation” (CNI) grant, which the authority is using to transform the Bartram Village public housing development. Apart from replacing existing housing units, PHA said it wants to provide affordable homeownership and reinvigorate a community commercial corridor.

About 80 people gathered in Bartram Village for a press conference with HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Monocchio, who was joined by congressional, state, city and community leaders.

“This is an incredible down payment from HUD and the federal government in investing in a marginalized community that has been redlined since the 1960s,” Kelvin A. Jeremiah, president and CEO of PHA, told The Inquirer before the event. “This investment of $50 million allows us to leverage another $225 million to fully fund the redevelopment initiative.” According to Jeremiah, approximately 668 households will benefit from the investment in the long run.

Among the 25 most populous cities in the U.S., Philadelphia is the poorest. With almost a quarter of the city’s households below the poverty rate, the need for affordable housing has been high for many years.

PHA has already received two CNI grants in the past — $30 million for replacing the Norris Apartments, and another $30 million for low-income homes in Sharswood, both communities in North Philadelphia. The grants are not only aimed at providing new housing but community amenities such as food stores and job training centers.

“When you build new housing that has services attached to it — grocery stores, a place to go to the doctor — you see a great improvement in people’s quality of life,” Monocchio told The Inquirer. “It’s more than just putting a nice roof over somebody’s head.”

Having seen how Sharswood benefited from the previous grant, he expects an uplift for Bartram Village residents as well. With a presidential election looming in 2024, Monocchio emphasized in his speech that CNI grants are “really emblematic of President Biden’s economic agenda.”

He was followed by Tumar Alexander, the city’s managing director who was also representing a traveling Mayor Jim Kenney.

“This neighborhood, I can’t wait to see what it looks like,” Alexander told the residents in attendance.

Afterward, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D., Pa.) remembered one of the first things she learned about this part of Philadelphia when she took office: “Southwest has been squeezed for too long. It’s squeezed between Delaware County and the Schuylkill River, kind of apart from the rest of the city and often overlooked. So this is such an important investment in Southwest to keep it from being overlooked.” And housing, she said, was “the key to making progress in everything else.”

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams started out on a personal note. His grandmother and father lived just about half a mile from Bartram Village, “in what people describe as poverty,” so he knows the importance of housing that low-income families can afford. Philadelphia might be one of the poorest cities in the country, he said, “but rapidly gentrified to have a different income level across the entire city.”

Williams encouraged the crowd to participate in the community, a notion State Rep. Regina Young echoed just minutes after, urging residents to “stay at the table.”

Published Aug. 4, 2023