While the year 2020 was like no other, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) adapted and effectively responded to the changing landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the year’s revelations of civil and societal inequalities. The agency stayed true to its mission to open doors to affordable housing, economic opportunity and safe sustainable communities to benefit the more than 80,000 residents with low incomes that it serves – and the greater community beyond.
To ensure housing stability for its residents, PHA implemented an eviction moratorium until March 15, 2021. PHA wanted the residents, who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, to know their housing was secured. PHA also moved many vital services on-line, such as paying rent.
“During the pandemic, affordable housing should be a basic human right, not a privilege,” Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA’s president & CEO, said. “PHA continues to focus on partners as well strategies that leverage its limited resources while ensuring that some of the new, quality housing developments rising in Philadelphia remain open, affordable and accessible to all.”
PHA was awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to continue its work in the Sharswood Community. The PHA broke ground on a $52 million development that included nearly 100 housing units, and a supermarket, bank, restaurant and healthcare facility. This will bring jobs and an economic boost to one of the most underserved communities in Philadelphia.
PHA expansion and benefit to the overall community did not end there. PHA and its partners currently have nearly 600 housing units under construction throughout the City. Due to PHA support, our partners were able to move Philadelphians into 226 new housing units during the pandemic. In addition, PHA committed 240 properties, including vacant structures and lots, to community non-profits, to develop new permanent, affordable housing. PHA was also awarded an additional 23 vouchers for homeless veterans and 152 mainstream vouchers to provide rental subsidies for non-elderly disabled.
Furthermore, PHA recognized and met the residents at the point of their need in the pandemic crisis. PHA provided over 23,000 masks to residents, installed hand sanitizer stations in developments, and adopted enhanced cleaning and safety protocols at senior sites and high rises, along with providing safety information on COVID-19 to its residents and staff.
PHA acted decisively in responding food insecurity facing residents by working with its exemplary resident leaders to serve over 8,000 children during the pandemic, providing nearly 90,000 meals from March to July in response to the schools being closed. PHA also partnered with the PCA and CHOP, to provide and distribute meals to families and seniors in need. PHA also changed its community centers to safe spaces for children to learn providing support and internet for virtual learning.
“With our residents working alongside of us to deliver donated food to neighbors, provide safe spaces for virtual learning, and add new housing to the portfolio, we got it done by working together towards shared goals,” Jeremiah said.
An immensely challenging year – and PHA has faced it right back with immense and creative fortitude, through a community of dedicated PHA leadership, staff, and residents.