Dear Editors of the Philadelphia Daily News,
Jan Ransom’s December 20th, 2012 story titled “Housing plan sparks debate in Point Breeze” contains so many factual errors that only one of two disappointing possibilities can be true. Either the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority is engaging in a systematic campaign of misinformation or they simply have no idea what is going on in their offices. Either way, we should all be concerned.
Let me start off by stating that I support affordable housing in Philadelphia. I believe it is absolutely needed, and I wholeheartedly embrace the commitment of those righteous people who have dedicated their lives to helping lower income residents live better and more productive lives in our great city. I do not, however, support Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority wantonly spending tax dollars for little more than sound bites and political scores. They are preying on the poor and tugging on the heart strings of the misinformed.
Contrary to statements published in the December 20th article written for the Daily News, the affordable housing being built in Point Breeze is neither inexpensive for the City of Philadelphia nor affordable to those in need. And it’s not helping long time residents of Point Breeze stay in their homes, either.
The Daily News article stated that of 26 properties that have sold, “twenty-four homes were priced between $90K and $150K” and only “two as high as $179K.” That statement is completely inaccurate. The truth is that of 41 affordable homes built in Point Breeze, only seven had list prices below $150K. Of those, all were priced at or above $125K. Sixteen homes were listed and sold above $179K, far more than the two at this price point, as suggested in the article.
Similarly, the PRA’s statement that “Since 2009, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) has funded 41 affordable houses using about $6.2 million in Federal funds within the Point Breeze Urban Renewal Area” is a half truth, and quite misleading. While it is true that $6.2M in Federal funds were used to build these homes, that number only tells half the story. In addition to the Federal funds, the City has given away millions of dollars worth of vacant land and then financing a construction budget that’s also in the millions.
As if reading a news article full of misinformation is not disturbing enough, it was exceptionally upsetting to read that “the city could not provide data on where the homeowners [buying these affordable homes] lived previously.” The City would only need to look at the first page of each agreement of sale to determine where the homeowner had lived. Sadly, the truth is that few if any of these new homeowners were long term residents of Point Breeze.
I do look forward to a future when our elected leaders and city agencies honor the oath they took. Until then, I encourage everybody to please check the “facts” they are giving you, rather than accept them without question.
— Ori C. Feibush