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Philadelphia aims to create a pipeline of affordable housing developers with access to capital

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

High mortgage rates and home prices continue to make buying property difficult for people with lower incomes. In Philadelphia, a citywide program is helping to change that by training people to develop affordable housing and offering them easier access to financing. Since its creation, the program has helped renovate nearly 500 units, and Aaron Moselle of member station WHYY went to one of them.

KINGZAKARIYAH MARTIN: Kitchen cabinets, regular refrigerator, regular dishwasher, stainless steel - everything just comes with the house at no extra cost.

AARON MOSELLE, BYLINE: Kingzakariyah Martin is showing me around the vacant row home he's nearly done renovating in a low-income section of North Philly. Everything in this three-bedroom looks brand-new and fresh, ready for a first-time homebuyer to move in. It's a moment nearly four years in the making.

MARTIN: I haven't completed much in my life, so this is probably the most - outside of my children, this is probably the most important thing that I've completed or that I've given to the world. So I just want to keep building on that.

MOSELLE: This is Martin's first real estate development. He was able to take on the project after securing a construction loan with friendly terms. To Martin, the rehab was a sound financial investment for his family, but he says he was also motivated by Philadelphia's affordable housing crisis and vivid memories of his mother crying in the street after an eviction.

MARTIN: If I could mitigate that - starting with myself, starting with my family, and then others in my community - by providing affordable housing and making sure that folks are housed in whatever shape, way or form, I think that's what drives me.

MOSELLE: Martin was able to fix up the property through Jumpstart Germantown. Launched nearly a decade ago, the citywide program teaches the basics of real estate development while offering loans to buy and renovate vacant properties to sell or rent out. The goal is to remove blight by increasing the city's supply of what's known as workforce housing. The program defines that as homes affordable to people earning between $40,000 and $80,000 a year. Veteran real estate developer Ken Weinstein created Jumpstart. He says the program has chapters across Philadelphia and in a handful of states.

KEN WEINSTEIN: We're showing people how to remove blight from their community, how to produce affordable housing for their community and how to improve their community with less displacement.

MOSELLE: Vincent Reina is faculty director of the Housing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. He says Jumpstart provides financing for projects that banks don't typically give out.

VINCENT REINA: And what this program's trying to do is not just to increase the pool of developers but also increase the diversity of the pool of developers, particularly for groups who haven't been able to engage in this space.

MOSELLE: After saving the property from foreclosure, Martin secured an $80,000 construction loan through Jumpstart and got to work. He says the home was in a sorry state - a rotting shell.

MARTIN: Yeah. This is a total gut rehab. Due to rain and excessive erosion and rot, it just was a soft piece of wood. So they had to tear down the entire thing, and then we had to build it back up.

MOSELLE: The downstairs now has more of an open-concept floor plan after Martin demolished a middle staircase. He also installed a new bay window on the first floor and, with the help of his sister, completely overhauled an overgrown backyard. Martin hopes to sell the property for around $200,000 - a figure well below the city's median sale price. He's already got his sights set on his next project.

For NPR News, I'm Aaron Moselle in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF LADY WRAY SONG, "HOLD ON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Aaron Moselle
[Copyright 2024 NPR]