Southwest CDC Continues to Work During the COVID-19 Crises

By: Steve Kuzmicki

The past several months have been a tough time for everyone, for some much more than others.

At Southwest CDC, we have continued to work (from home of course), continuing to provide the crucial services that the community has come to depend on. 

Housing Counseling Program: Our Housing Counseling Program has remained open for business!  Since the beginning of the stay-at-home order, our counselors have been working remotely. Most clients email their paperwork in and talk by phone.  Counselors have also been busy helping people apply for Philadelphia’s temporary emergency rental assistance program.  They have also been doing virtual first time homebuyer workshops and virtual financial education workshops.  

Affordable Housing Study: Our work around affordable housing and our efforts to mitigate the effects of gentrification has also continued.   Nearly half of Southwest residents are renters and they are particularly vulnerable to landlords looking for more affluent tenants.  For the last six months, we have been working with Urban Partners to complete a housing study (funded by DCED and the Patricia Kind Family Foundation) to determine how best to help Southwest residents.

The preliminary findings are in, and they reveal some very interesting information about the housing market in Southwest.  The report also suggests some new programs and policy initiatives for Southwest CDC, as follows:

  • Incorporate a rental assistance/education & tenant rights/advocacy component to our existing housing counseling and NAS community outreach programs.  This could include pre and post leasing counseling, and tenant rights training & advocacy.
  • The Housing Counseling program could be augmented with an expanded post-purchase component, including new training/assistance with things like higher taxes, higher homeowners insurance and home-selling advice.
  • Develop initiative to advocate for the protection of existing income-restricted rental housing.
  • Create Southwest Tenant Association – to help people before they get to court or in trouble with their landlord. 
  • Provide training to local landlord’s on how to be good landlords.  This could include how to properly maintain unit, L&I regulations, fair housing requirements, and other challenges of ownership, such as assisting with the resolution of tangled titles. Perhaps the Jumpstart training curriculum could be modified to support this.
  • Continue our efforts to create income-restricted rental housing by partnering with experienced organizations.  
  • Housing repair and modernization – promote the City’s BSRP and weatherization (helping people with applications and follow up).  
  • Continue with Affordable Housing Rehab for sale programs – develop and implement long term affordability strategies such as land trusts, deed restrictions, etc. 

Some of these suggestions we have already begun to implement or have plans to do so.  Stay tuned for further updates. 

Affordable Homeownership: We have also continued with our efforts to develop affordable housing for homeownership.  In a partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Wayne Presbyterian Church we are in the process of acquiring and rehabbing units to be rehabbed and then sold.  The ideal scenario is that these units will then be sold to graduates of our Housing Counseling or First Time Homeowners Program.  The first housing units have been identified, the scope of work is complete and we have applied for a construction loan.  We expect construction to begin in June, and the units will be available for purchase before the end of the summer.  This will be our first housing rehab experience and we’re excited about taking the first step. 

Jumpstart Southwest: we were scheduled to offer this popular training program this spring but of course that had to be cancelled due to the COVID 19 crises.  We continue to offer technical assistance and support to Jumpstart Southwest graduates, some who have obtained financing and are moving ahead with their projects.   Finally, we are currently exploring the possibility of offering the program on-line.  If you would be interested in participating in “Jumpstart Southwest Virtual” training please go to www.jumpstartsouthwest.com and add your name to the existing waiting list.  We will contact you if and when the program goes online.    

For more information about these programs please contact me at steven@southwestcdc.org

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