Phila. Roofs Are Sprouting Greenery

When Esta Schwartz moved into her sixth-floor condominium at the Philadelphian, the view was not its best selling point.

The condos in the front of the building look out onto the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Art Museum, but her balcony, at the back, offered views of a black roof studded with large air-conditioning units.

Not anymore. Last week, workers began spreading dirt atop the roof, then planting it with sedum and other greenery that will be pink in June, ocher come November. Tall grasses will hide the air handlers.

“In some ways, it’s like a view out of a suburban window,” she said. Perhaps a third of the building’s condos now overlook, in effect, a huge lawn.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/science/20150422_Phila__roofs_are_sprouting_greenery.html#HmDdVpIU2KkOq5jx.99

Center City District: Housing Boom Continues

The housing boom rolling across central Philadelphia showed no signs of weakening last year, according to data released Tuesday, but a population exodus could be on the near horizon if little is done to fix the city’s schools and tax structure.

The news was mostly positive out of Center City District’s annual housing report, which found that 1,983 new apartments, condos, and houses between Girard and Tasker Avenues, and the Schuylkill and Delaware River hit the market in 2014, thanks to an influx of empty nesters and young professionals, said CCD chief executive Paul Levy.

That number was down 8.5 percent from the record-breaking 2,168 logged a year earlier. But Levy and his staff concluded that demand for the torrent of new construction of homes and apartments would be strong for at least several more years.

“Property is selling for more. It’s selling more quickly,” Levy said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150218_Center_City_District__Housing_boom_continues.html#gfAQAl0PUIx9wOV9.99

Changing Skyline: Subsidized Housing Deal May Benefit Developers More

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

It wasn’t always that way. From the 1950s through the Clinton years, the federal government financed thousands of units of affordable housing. Though the results weren’t always well-designed, the programs did at least ensure the poor had places to live. But in the last decade, federal money dried up and cities were left to their own devices. It’s no accident that wage stagnation has become a hot issue as low-cost housing has become harder to find.

So, as with many urban improvements these days, cities have begun to look to the private sector to pick up the slack. The strategy is called “inclusionary housing,” and it involves trading zoning bonuses for apartments.

Developers get to put up taller, denser towers. Cities get a bunch of units in the new buildings that can be rented at below-market rates. Low-wage workers get fabulous apartments with skyline views.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20141017_Changing_Skyline__Subsidized_housing_deal_may_benefit_developers_more.html#TCCsm4dMWl0uHb5b.99