On October 4, 2016, staff attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg composed a letter expressing concerns surrounding the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s (PHA) joint assessment of the Fair Housing plan. The plan produced was done so under obligation to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH).
The overarching concern is that the plan will fail to focus on internal forces, specifically an underrepresentation of Latinos in PHA and PHA-affiliated housing. Dan illustrates the disparity by pulling numbers from the U.S. Census’ 2014 American Community Survey. The consensus reports 23% of households in poverty are Latino but only represent about 7% of PHA residents. Only 18 of almost 19,000 recipients of housing choice voucher receipts spoke Spanish at home. The numbers are similarly disparaging across all types of housing and waitlists.
The city has made an effort identifying and breaking down external forces, which is also of extreme importance. The City has also excelled in supporting housing counselors, legal aid lawyers, foreclosure prevention efforts, and the First Judicial Districts foreclosure mediation methods. These efforts by the city have saved countless homes and families.
Still, it is crucial that we focus on implementing non-discriminatory distribution that currently holds the city back from fair and equitable housing. Dan puts forth an example of what a true plan to further fair housing would encompass: “Identifying inequities within Philadelphia government itself, examining both place-based and person-based disparities in those resource distributions and then identifying the policies that will address those disparities, along with clear benchmarks to cure any inequities.”
Taking the time for introspection is crucial to put forth a plan that truly furthers fair housing in Philadelphia. The plan must implement policies that focus on both internal and external forces if the city wants to achieve the positive change that the Fair Housing plan expects and requires to be considered a success.