Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
Last fall, Point Breeze developers and like-minded critics slammed 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson for his efforts to condemn 17 privately held lots and consolidate them for affordable-housing development. One of their complaints: The city already owns 311 properties in the vicinity and many of them have languished for years, unused and ill-maintained. So why couldn’t the city develop those properties first?
Now, Johnson wants to do just that. City Council passed a bill last week to steer $2.2 million in Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) dollars toward turning vacant structures in Point Breeze into affordable housing. “We thought it would be a better idea to find city-owned shells in our district and rehab them instead of taking more properties onto the city inventory,” says Johnson’s legislative aide, Steven Cobb. The money will be used to rehab up to 11 properties — if the buildings aren’t already too deteriorated. “Unfortunately, a lot of [city-owned buildings] are in a dilapidated condition,” says Cobb. Johnson would have liked to rehab more buildings. “The problem is, there’s not that many shells.” The city’s portfolio in Point Breeze is mostly vacant lots, and NTI money can’t be used for new development, only for acquisitions or rehabs.
It may sound like a reaction to last year’s backlash, but Cobb says the plan has been the works since last spring: “The steps of the process take a little bit longer than we would like.”
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