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Philadelphia Charter Change Proposal Would Mean More Funding for Affordable Housing

Gauthier’s move is part of his “Challenging Displacement” campaign. The effort primarily helps low-income Black and brown residents, including voters in his Third District, which includes rapidly gentrifying sections of West Philadelphia such as University City.

Launched in 2018, the mixed-income program allows developers to increase the density of their projects beyond base zoning, whether that means more units or square footage, whether by building price-restricted affordable housing or paying the city . If they choose to make a payment “in lieu” of creating affordable units, that money is supposed to go toward housing programs funded through the Housing Trust Fund. But the agreement is non-binding, so the money can be used elsewhere.

The charter change, which requires voters to approve a ballot question, would effectively close that loophole, a move that supporters say does little more than satisfy the original intent of the mixed-income program.

If approved, density bonus payments would also have to be spent in specific parts of the city, particularly in areas where increased development threatens to displace low-income residents. The measure would also lower the income threshold for residents who benefit from Housing Trust Fund dollars.

“We are not against development. But we need tools to create housing opportunities for this very vulnerable population that is simply not in East Parkside but around the city of Philadelphia. We really need forward-thinking solutions and policies to smooth out the imbalance of these housing inequalities,” said Joyce Smith, board member of Centennial Parkside CDC. The full Council must approve the bill before a question is put to voters. The bill can be definitively approved next Thursday. It would appear at the polls next May.

The Parker administration is against the measure because it would “tie the hands” of any mayor, especially during budget negotiations, by creating another fixed cost like the city’s pension obligations, Finance Director Rob Dubow said.

“We agree that housing funding is essential, but so are other parts of the budget, such as education funding,” Dubow said.