I’ve been critical of Philadelphia’s District 2 Councilman Kenyatta Johnson for proposing some affordable housing ideas I think won’t work, but now I have to give the man some credit for updating his views in response to criticism, and introducing a much better proposal:
“We thought it would be a better idea to find city-owned shells in our district and rehab them instead of taking more properties onto the city inventory,” said Johnson’s legislative aide, Steven Cobb, explaining the new plan.
Johnson already controls the $2.2 million through a fund called the Qualified Redevelopment Bond (QRB), which is essentially a pool of unused cash from former Mayor John Street‘s controversial urban renewal scheme, NTI. Each district councilmember gets access to a limited amount of QRB money, but there are strings attached. As its name implies, QRB money can’t be used for new construction, only for land acquisition and rehabilitation of existing structures. Johnson’s portion had been designated for acquisition, reflecting the Councilman’s initial focus on acquiring more land for future development.
“All [the resolution] does is change the categorization of this money from acquisition to rehabilitation,” said Cobb.
Cobb says the money will then be used to rehab up to 11 existing shells in the neighborhood, after the PRA consolidates ownership of the properties which are currently controlled by a variety of city agencies. However, he cautioned the deterioration of many city-owned buildings in Point Breeze may reduce that number after upcoming inspections determine the viability of redevelopment.
Councilman Johnson’s kind of on a roll lately, first proposing the best of the AVI tax relief plans, and now with this plan to rehab city-owned properties in his district.
Changing your mind is hard, especially for politicians who have publicly committed to certain positions, so I think this is really commendable. I hope we’ll see some of Mr. Johnson’s other critics update their assessments of him too. In politics, you want to make it very easy for people you’ve disagreed with to come over to your side. Councilman Johnson is showing that he wants to be receptive to the best ideas for keeping housing affordable, and our goal has to be to help persuade him when we disagree, not attack him.
(via Ryan Briggs)