María Quiñones-Sánchez’s Zoning Changes Will Make Philly Rents Higher

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Jared Brey:

Sánchez also said that she had worked out an agreement with Norris Square Civic Association that would alter its plans for the site of the now-demolished St. Boniface church while insuring that no federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) funds would be lost.

Instead of 15 co-op units at the St. Boniface site, Sánchez said, the new plans include eight single-family homes at that site, each with two parking spots, and more co-op units at other sites in the neighborhood. She said that her office had also worked with NSCA to choose some vacant sites in Norris Square for NSCA to do in-fill development, which Sánchez previously said would be a more appropriate use of the federal money.

According to Sánchez, the new plans create more total units with the same amount of money, while decreasing density. Sánchez said that she and Norris Square Civic Association will co-host a meeting when the plans for St. Boniface and the NSP2 funds are finalized to gather community input.

It’s good that the total amount of housing units isn’t going to shrink, but it’s still the case that you can fit many more housing units on these parcels than it will be legal to build.

It’s important to keep in mind that Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez wants to make this change because she says she thinks it will slow down gentrification. I think that’s really mistaken.

Gentrification is basically an inflation problem – too much money chasing too few goods. More people start to want to live in the neighborhood, but there’s not enough housing for everyone, so prices start going up and poorer residents get displaced to cheaper areas.

There are only really two ways to come at this problem – you can upzone and allow developers to build as much housing as people want, or you can actively try to make the neighborhood a worse place to be, so people stop wanting to live there.

Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez’s proposal is just going to drive up rents, by preventing the supply of housing from keeping up with the demand for housing.

Too many people who consider themselves affordable housing supporters are focused on the narrow issue of carving out a few below-market units in otherwise expensive buildings. That’s nice, but it doesn’t get at the core issue, which is that anti-density development restrictions in growing neighborhoods push up rents citywide. If you want more affordable housing, then you need to stop restricting housing construction.

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