The following editorial was published on Monday, October 27
in the Philadelphia Inquirer
The North Philadelphia neighborhood of Blumberg/Sharswood is one
of the poorest and most neglected communities in our city. The low
social-economic status of its families, the lack of schools, jobs,
public safety, and quality housing, are all conditions resulting
from decades of neglect.
The area's poverty rate has increased 8 percent since 2000, to
the current 59 percent; the average household income is about
$11,500 a year (compared with $60,000 as the approximate household
median income for Philadelphia); there are 1,282 abandoned
real-estate parcels, two neighborhood schools are closed, 31
percent of the population do not have a high school diploma, and 45
percent of the residents are 18 years old or younger.
Nearly a year ago, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA)
announced that the transformation of the Blumberg/Sharswood
neighborhood was its number-one priority. A $500,000 Choice
Neighborhoods Initiative Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development supported PHA's unprecedented
The magnitude of this project required that PHA leverage the
federal funds with $700,000 from public/private partnerships. The
planning grant, coupled with the award of $1.5 million in a
community development block grant from the city and 9 percent
low-income tax credits from the commonwealth, is making the first
phase of Blumberg/Sharswood possible.
The redevelopment of a community is about turning ideas into
public policy and putting policy into action.
PHA's revitalization efforts are a targeted, coordinated
development model designed to maximize the economic benefits of
neighborhood revitalization, not the piecemeal dispersed
development model of the past. To transform communities into
neighborhoods of choice, there must be good schools for every
child, quality affordable housing for all families, and a vibrant
small-business commercial corridor. The challenge is turning the
ideas and rhetoric into policy and practice.
As president and CEO of PHA, I have ensured that the agency's
budget allocation is a reflection of our ideas and values. In the
coming years, PHA will invest more than $200 million and leverage
an additional $250 million in public/private partnerships to
transform the Blumberg/Sharswood community.
To accomplish all this, PHA has reformed its capital investment
strategy, established a long list of public, private, and
university partners, and reorganized its internal management of
redevelopment projects. PHA has aligned its ideas, policy, and
finances to be able to achieve its goal of transforming a targeted
Despite our city's successes over the past two decades, there is
an affordable-housing crisis in Philadelphia and our schools are in
a state of emergency. Quality housing, good schools, and a vibrant
small-business economy only exist in a select number of
neighborhoods, and the economics needed to access the prosperity of
these neighborhoods is beyond the reach of most Philadelphians.
Families cannot realize what I call the American promise, the
opportunity to achieve long-term prosperity, because far too many
are living in poverty and without the education and skills needed
PHA has a twofold solution to this challenge.
First, the agency will build quality affordable housing in the
Blumberg/Sharswood neighborhood. But the revitalization initiative
is not only about providing housing; it is also about empowering
residents. Therefore, the second part of the solution is providing
residents with the means to become self-reliant, in a safe
PHA is committed to raising residents' productivity and skills
through links to education, job training, and placement; providing
opportunities for families to become entrepreneurs; and addressing
the crime and safety issues that have long plagued the
These opportunities for residents, along with quality affordable
housing, will create a path to prosperity for individuals and
families. This can be achieved through PHA's strong partnerships
with public entities, for-profit and nonprofit organizations,
universities, and the city. Our goal is to reconnect residents to
good schools and economic opportunities, anchored by a safe and
vibrant commercial corridor on Ridge Avenue that attracts and
supports small business. In so doing, we will revive
Blumberg/Sharswood by making it a neighborhood of choice where
families can thrive.
PHA is making this investment in Blumberg/Sharswood now because,
for too long, families in the community were told to wait. The wait
is over, and today PHA, with its partners, will build a bridge of
opportunity for social and economic prosperity.
Kelvin A. Jeremiah
President & CEO
Philadelphia Housing Authority