Philly RG testifies for Affordable Housing

In January 2016, RG Philly created a Political Action working group, to discern our role in and take action on local economic and racial justice campaigns. We went through a process of considering where we could have the most impact, and in March 2016 RG Philly joined the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities. PCAC’s current campaign, Development without Displacement, is focused on adequately funding the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will help keep long-term residents in their homes, working towards a vision of more community controlled neighborhoods.  

Since joining the campaign, RG members have shown up for actions at city hall, gathered signatures for PCAC’s petition to city council, and testified at the Office of Housing and Community Development’s and the City Council’s budget hearings. Testifying alongside of other coalition members has been a powerful experience of leveraging our privilege in ways that deepen relationships and clarify our work in PCAC and Philadelphia.  We’re excited about RG chapters joining political campaigns, so are offering our testimony here, and inviting others who are excited about cross-class coalitions, affordable housing, and land justice movements to connect with us.

Jessica Rosenberg Testifying at Office of Housing and Community Development, April 19th, 2016
…As a wealthy Philadelphian with secure housing, I might not be who you expected to hear from today on the issue of affordable housing. It is true that I, and the memember-led organization I represent [RG],  am not “directly impacted”  by rising housing prices. I haven’t experienced displacement, and if my rent goes up, I can still, for a long while, afford it.  I am here in support of my neighbors and friends who have been and will continue to be pushed out by rising housing costs. I’m here because I believe it is the job of city government to not just work for me and people like me, but  most of all to protect the most vulnerable, to do what is in our power to make the city liveable for all of its residents. I’m part of RG and we are part of the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, because we want to advocate, side by side with our neighbors, for a livable city that does not grow at the expense of low-income people and people with disabilities. We value confronting and addressing inequality and disparity, and recognize that means us being asked for more from the city, and supporting development dedicated to those with less economic resources.

I have lived most of my life in the Philadelphia area. I grew up in Jenkintown, went to college at Bryn Mawr. I moved away after college, and moved  back for graduate school, to be close to family, and because I wanted to be at home in this city and region that nurtured my family for many generations. I go to school in Montgomery County, my family is in the suburbs, I work in Bucks County. In many ways my life would be a lot easier if I lived there. I choose to live in the city of Philadelphia because I want to live in a racially  and economically diverse community. Because I want to live on a block and in a neighborhood with people who are different from me and grew up different than me. I didn’t want a long stretch of lawn between me and my neighbors. I wanted the culture and community and quality of life that comes from living together with people, sharing resources, and building a city that is home to and supports the lives of all its citizens. I want to live in this city, but I don’t want my living here to displace long time residents.

‘Gentrification’ can be a controversial phrase (let alone topic) in the communities I come from. Often people from my class background feel like, I want to live in the city, and it’s not my fault that living here impacts the neighborhood, and I don’t want it to, but there  is nothing for me to do. I know many people moving to Philly, to West Philly where I live, who feel this sort of helplessness: I don’t want to displace anyone, but where am I supposed to live, and what am I supposed to do? This is why RG believes in this coalition and the movement for development without displacement:  that we can improve neighborhoods, grow businesses, plant gardens, have thriving arts and culture, all while keeping this city affordable and accessible to low income and  working class residents.  We believe that working in coalition with all the groups and people who you’re hearing from today and advocating for affordable housing is the way to do that.

I hope that I am demonstrating what is so strong and powerful about this coalition: we are a diverse group of Philadelphians,  coming together because we want this city to thrive, and we believe affordability and economic diversity benefits all of Philadelphia’s residents. We look forward to working with this office and this administration to support affordable housing and a city for all.

Becky Jones testifying at City Council Budget Hearing, June 2nd, 2016
My name is Becky Jones and I’m a part of Resource Generation, a group that organizes young people with access to wealth to redistribute land, wealth, and power, and we are a part of the Coalition for Affordable Communities. I am here today to testify about Bill 160471 to increase the Realty Transfer Tax. Our main concern with this proposal is that it supports homeowners but does not support renters, who in my opinion have the highest need for this sort of assistance. Over half of all renters in Philadelphia are cost-burdened and pay more than 30% of their income on rent. Since moving to Philadelphia 2 years ago, I have watched many of my neighbors—long term residents of West Philadelphia—move out and be replaced by grad students or recent college graduates like myself, who are generally less connected to and invested in the future well-being of our community. Because renters lack the stability of homeowners, they may not be able to afford to stay in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.

Personally, I am a college-educated millennial from a wealthy family committed to Philly’s future as a vibrant city—precisely the type of person new development in Philadelphia hopes to attract—but I do not want to live in a city that makes me comfortable at the expense of those who have lived and struggled here for their whole lives. The long-term residents of my neighborhood are what make it a community—many renters who are at risk of being pushed out are the glue that holds this city together. In the interest of making housing safe and affordable for all Philadelphians, we would like to see … the new money coming in support renters as well as homeowners—including homelessness prevention, new affordable housing development, and renters who need adaptive modification. Thank you for your time and service to our city.

RG Philly is excited about growing our learning about this work and how to do it. We would love to connect with other chapters who are thinking about  housing, gentrification, and cross-class movement building. Connect with us at and [email protected]