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May 05, 2023

City Council legislative package aims to save affordable housing properties from expiring contracts

The two bills would require landlords to provide 130 days' notice to tenants and city officials, and give tenant groups 45 days to make an offer before public listing

Government Housing
People's Preservation Package Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

City Council passed two bills on Thursday to address expiring affordable housing contracts. The package creates an opportunity for tenant organizations and the city to purchase properties before they are publicly listed.

Finding affordable housing in Philadelphia is a dilemma that plagues many residents, especially those that can't afford to live in properties without rental assistance.

On Thursday, City Council unanimously approved a two-bill legislative package to help preserve affordable housing for those residents. The People's Preservation Package, spearheaded by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, aims to protect thousands of affordable homes in the city.

Under the legislation, property owners with affordable housing contracts would be required to notify more people when they intend to end those contracts — including all tenants in the building, the executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the city councilmember for the district where the property is located. Owners would have to provide 130 days' written notice if the property will be sold to developers that will not continue to provide low-cost housing units.

Also under the legislation, the city, tenant organizations and other affordable housing providers will be given 45 days to make an offer on properties before they are marketed publicly for sale. Those groups can also match market-rate offers to keep properties affordable under this legislative package. 

"The City needs to arm itself to combat looming affordable housing opt-outs," Gauthier said. "The People's Preservation Package empowers the city and its partners to keep vulnerable families in their homes. I thank my City Council colleagues for recognizing the urgency of preserving affordable housing!"

According to data from the National Housing Preservation Database, there are over 34,000 housing units receiving federal assistance in Philadelphia. But over the next decade, more than 12,000 affordable housing units will face the risk of expiring contracts, which could force people out of their homes. 

Under the People's Preservation Package, the city will maintain a directory of affordable housing properties and track expiration dates.

The legislation's passage comes two weeks after the city reached a deal with IBID Associates over its decision to sell the University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia, evicting 70 families. As a part of the settlement, IBID Associates agreed to give the city half an acre of land on the property to build new low-cost homes and pay $3.5 million, to be distributed among the displaced families.

When IBID Associates decided not to renew its four-decade HUD contract, it left tenants scrambling to find permanent homes to replace their low-cost housing. Under the HUD contract, eligible tenants paid 30% of their rent, with housing choice vouchers covering the difference.

The next step for the People's Preservation Package is for Mayor Jim Kenney to sign it into law. A spokesperson for Kenney's administration said he supports the legislation.

"The city is deeply committed to preserving existing affordable rental housing units. Through its last two preservation requests for proposal, the city committed nearly $40 million to preserve 540 affordable rental units," the city spokesperson said via email.