After decades of accumulating properties and land, late this summer, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is expected to sell off 1,000 blighted vacant homes and 800 other homes, predominantly in North, West, and Southwest Philly. The authority plans to pour the proceeds back into its five-year strategic plan, which includes developing two new projects each year.
“PHA is faced with a very unusual situation in that, aside from our conventional developments, we own thousands of individual properties in the city, and public housing authorities are not configured to manage an inventory of this type,” says the authority’s executive director Carl Greene. “Management and maintenance is much more expensive. Add to that the fact that these properties are in poor condition, so rehabbing them would be prohibitively expensive.” PHA currently owns and manages 4,400 occupied scattered sites and oversees about 10,000 public housing units in conventional developments. Additionally, PHA owns 1,500 empty scattered houses it hopes to repair and rent.
PHA first announced its plan to sell the blighted sites in October 2007 and has been waiting more than a year-and-a-half to receive approvals from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Unfortunately, the request got bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.
Since the announcement, PHA has received numerous inquiries, predominantly from smaller-sized investors and builders. The authority expects the sales to take as long as five years. “We certainly don’t want to cause a glut,” Greene says. “Our intention is to give others the opportunity to develop new housing, especially affordable housing.”
The authority will seek market-rate value for the majority of the properties, but the HUD/PHA agreement does allow, on a case-by-case basis, for properties to be transferred to affordable housing developers for nominal sums.