Thanks to a $400,000 state grant awarded to the city, a limited number of eligible landlords will be able to apply for loans of up to $25,000. The money must be used for “health and safety-related” repairs, including lead abatement and fixes connected to building code violations, such as broken plumbing.
“The worst-case scenario that we’re always trying to avoid is a situation where landlords of affordable units get shut down and those tenants are out on the street, have to find another place to live or even worse don’t have another place to live,” said Gregory Heller, senior vice president of investment at the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation.
The four-year pilot will be operated by an arm of the nonprofit Impact Services Corporation and offered to landlords in eight North and Northeast Philadelphia zip codes covering neighborhoods from Norris Square to Lawncrest.
“What we’re seeing is that there’s been underinvestment in a lot of the rental units, in Kensington especially, because the landlords couldn’t expect a lot of rent if they made improvements,” said Marcus.
Derrick Cain hopes to be one of them. He’s owned a pair of affordable apartments for well over a decade, including one in West Kensington.
Cain is looking for $20,000 to winterize the single-family unit and perform a lead abatement, among other improvements. He said it’s been hard securing the loan, in part because some banks and credit unions don’t want to lend him a sum they consider small.
One bank told Cain it didn’t make loans under $100,000.
About half of the properties included in the study date back to the start of WWII or earlier.
Sherri Lee had to leave behind the South Philadelphia rowhome her family was renting because of plumbing problems in her basement. A toilet and utility sink backed up, sending raw sewage onto the floor and all over her belongings, boxed in a corner near the stairs.
Heller, with the city’s development corporation, said Philadelphia has more than 100,000 affordable units with renters making less than half of Philadelphia’s area median income. He estimated it would take $10 million to repair all of them.
“The size of the problem is really significant … but you have to start somewhere,” said Heller.