In April 2014 the Oak Foundation invited us to imagine strategies to preserve and increase the city of Philadelphia’s affordable housing at a time when real estate prices are rising. May 8 CEO Karen Black proposed to Oak that Philadelphia would benefit from new loan and grant models to provide home repairs at scale in order to preserve rowhouses and improve the health of Philadelphians. In partnership with Oak and non-profits leaders across the city, Black founded the Healthy Rowhouse Project and brought extraordinary new resources to preserve low- and moderate-income home ownership. In the past four years Black raised over $1 million to research how substandard housing impacts health, who needs healthy home repairs and what new grants and loan programs are cost-effective.
Today, the Healthy Rowhouse Project is a leader in the work at the intersection of health and housing and the City of Philadelphia, making a $100 million investment to preserve homes, prevent displacement and improve health. The city has dedicated $60 million for home repair grants to low-income homeowners. The city will also launch a new $40 million low-interest Housing Preservation Loan Program (HPLP) for low- to moderate-income homeowners. At a time when private lenders are denying 67% of home repair loan applications, and non-white homeowners are much more likely to be denied, the loan program is critical for Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority is getting this program off the ground in 2018 having solicited lenders and issued an RFP for a program intermediary to manage HPLP.