After building affordable housing for 30 years, a program run by the Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) enabled five families and individuals to become homeowners when they moved into townhouses in the Point Breeze section of south Philadelphia.
The townhouses, known as Mamie Nicholas Homes, are named after an activist and founder of the Point Breeze Federation. This is the first development of the Community Justice Land Trust (CJLT), a non-profit organization sponsored by the WCRP. The families moved in late last year.
Using low-income housing tax credits, WCRP has built hundreds of affordable housing units. It’s the city’s first project to use a land trust model for homeownership — a model that other groups in Philadelphia hope to replicate.
“CJLT is pioneering a new affordable housing model that allows long-term residents to stay in Point Breeze and preserve the fabric of their community,” said Nora Lichtash, Executive Director of WCRP.
WRCP developed the homes in partnership with longtime Reinvestment Fund borrower Innova Service Corp., which since 2009 has developed a number of affordable housing units in Point Breeze, many of which have been financed by the Reinvestment Fund. .
In addition, the WRCP received an Affordable Housing Grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and Fulton Bank and funding from the Reinvestment Fund.
The community land trust model ensures ongoing affordability by developing the homes on land owned by a non-profit organization.
“Point Breeze is historically a black neighborhood, but it’s also a neighborhood that a lot of African Americans are being pushed out of because of gentrification and rising property values,” said Tierra Rich, 31, educator and new resident of Mamie Nichols. Houses. “By owning a home, I’m planting roots that will strengthen my future and the future of our Point Breeze community.”
Rich, who moved to Philadelphia about 10 years ago, said his previous experience living in apartments showed him how rising real estate values and rents are pushing some people out of the market. The onset of the pandemic in 2019 made Rich, like many other people, less economically stable.
According to Lichtash, the homes were sold to select individuals through an outreach effort that contacted churches and community groups in South Philadelphia.
“We did a lot of outreach in the neighborhood,” Lichtash said.
They were sold to individuals or families whose income did not exceed 80% of the city’s median income, or $72,100 for a family of four. And WCRP provided homebuyers with down payment assistance.
Local data confirms Rich’s belief in spiraling house prices. Over the past 20 years, gentrification in Point Breeze has driven up housing prices, making the neighborhood less affordable for many long-time residents.
For example, some of Point Breeze’s new homes are selling for as much as $500,000, Lichtash said.
The total cost to build the Mamie Nichols houses was about $1.5 million, or about $300,000 per unit. But the grants allowed the group to sell the homes for no more than $150,000. As a result, home buyers will be limited in the price at which they can sell homes, in order to maintain affordability.
In addition to the city’s five neighborhoods, the Mamie Nichols housing development also includes 33 rental units under construction at Reed and S. Capitol Streets. Of this total, 22 are townhouses for families and 11 are one-bedroom or efficiency apartments for veterans with special needs.
“Like its namesake, Mamie Nichols townhouses prioritize the needs of the local community while serving as an inspiration for the next generation of affordable housing advocates,” Lichtash said.
WCRP has also developed 36 rent-to-own homes in Port Richmond (Grace Town homes) and 35 rent-to-own homes in Germantown (Nicole Hines Town homes). Funding has been approved for a new lease/purchase development at Grays Ferry with construction expected to begin this year.
Since its inception in 1987, WCRP has focused on improving the housing, economic and social conditions of low-income women and their families. The group is the primary organizer of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, which includes 68 community development corporations and other groups. The coalition works to combat gentrification in rapidly growing neighborhoods.
Elizabeth Frantz, senior director of the Reinvestment Fund for Loans and Investments, said she provided a construction loan of $1.4 million for the development.
“We were truly honored to have the opportunity to help the women’s community revitalization project with the Mamie Nicholas Homes,” said Frantz. “The homes are located in a neighborhood that has seen an increase in selling prices and a loss of affordability in recent years.”
“We were really excited about WCRP’s land trust model to ensure homes would be affordable for current buyers and families in perpetuity,” Frantz said. “This aligns with the Reinvestment Fund’s mission to ensure everyone has access to critical opportunities to thrive, including affordable housing.