There’s only one dedicated pot of money for affordable housing in Philadelphia: the Housing Trust Fund. The money in this fund comes from mortgage and deed recording fees. According to Christi Clark, lead organizer of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities (PCAC), this is not a secure or adequate source of revenue. In 2015, the fund was valued at $11.7 million. In its new campaign, Development without Displacement, PCAC aims to increase the fund’s value to at least $20 million by getting a series of bills passed that will add stable resources to the Housing Trust Fund.
PCAC, formerly the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, is a coalition of community organizations that share this vision of accessible, affordable housing and green space in the Philadelphia region. In 2014 the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, with support from Bread & Roses, achieved its goal of establishing a land bank. PCAC is now organizing to make sure the land bank and the Housing Trust Fund have enough resources to meet the city’s growing need for affordable housing.
In 2015 PCAC grew from 20 organizations to 40, building more power to deliver on their shared vision. PCAC is pressuring City Council to adopt policies that will capture the benefits of new real estate development in order to ensure that people of all incomes can afford to stay in Philadelphia, and in their communities, for decades to come.
The issues are serious, but the tactics are sometimes playful. PCAC members attend City Council meetings wearing their PCAC T-shirts and sporting vegetable-themed hats to represent their urban gardens. “We have fun with it,” Clark said.
Most recently, PCAC secured the support of City Council member Kenyatta Johnson. Johnson gave the organization a list of publicly held vacant land in his district and made a commitment to supporting PCAC in reserving this land for affordable housing and green space.