Should Philly impose an annual cash injection into the Housing Trust Fund? (question of vote)

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If this were already in place, an additional $ 25 million in taxpayer dollars would have been spent on affordable housing this year.

Emma Lee / WHY

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The Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund was established in 2005, thanks in part to a campaign by more than 90 advocacy groups that make up the Association of Community Development Societies of Philadelphia (PACDC). It is one of more than 800 housing trust funds across the country that are designed to meet the most urgent housing needs of their constituents.

Whenever a mortgage or deed is registered in Philadelphia, a portion of the fee goes into the Housing Trust Fund. Fees paid by developers for zoning bonuses also go into the fund.

In addition to these ongoing sources of funding, Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council reached an agreement in 2018 that allocated $ 20 million per year, for five years, to the Housing Trust Fund – although this funding was not provided last year due to budget constraints related to the pandemic.

In 2021, the Kenney administration set the resource priorities for the Housing Trust Fund: developing new affordable housing units and preserving existing affordable housing; home repairs; assistance to first-time buyers; and homelessness prevention and adapted housing.

The Housing Trust Fund supports the city’s Basic Systems Repair Program, which provides city residents with the financial support needed to complete electrical, plumbing and roofing repairs to their homes. It is a program that some tout as the key to broader anti-violence work; According to a 2021 study from the University of Pennsylvania, some blocks that benefited from the Basic Systems Repair program saw violence decrease by 21.9%.

Mortgage and deed fees contributed $ 8.5 million to the Housing Trust Fund’s overall budget of $ 26.5 million for 2021, compared to about $ 18 million of the General Fund’s appropriations for the city.

What you will see on the ballot

Will the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for a mandatory annual credit for the Housing Trust Fund?

What this means

A ‘yes’ vote means you think 0.5% of the city’s general fund should be set aside for the housing trust fund each year, starting in fiscal 2023.

The General Fund appropriations comprise most of the funds intended for the general operations of the City, paid mainly by taxes which have no other restrictions on how the money is spent. Had this proposal been put in place this year, the Council would have been required to set aside around $ 25 million for housing programs, in addition to the money required by other existing laws to be spent on such programs. This minimum amount would not be allowed to be used for other purposes, unless there is an urgent need to use it elsewhere.

The money would go to building affordable housing, adapting affordable housing to make it accessible to people with disabilities, repairing existing homes and increasing the number of housing available for the more than 6,000 homeless people in the city.

Advocates like council member Derek Green, who originally proposed the bill, which was passed unanimously by city council, say it will allow the city to truly focus on expanding access to affordable housing and solve the city’s housing crisis.

Critics, like Mayor Jim Kenney, believe it is best for the city to look for ways to increase and incentivize the amount developers pay into the fund, and argue that the mandated funding would hamper the city’s capacity. to manage its general funds.

There is an exception built into the legislation that states that in the event of a recession or any type of economic emergency, the city’s finance manager could override the mandate and decide whether or not funds would be reallocated.

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