Students in the "Politics of Housing and Urban Development" class publish study of Philadelphia homes repaired by grants

January 10, 2013

By Casandra Dominguez, MPA ‘13

Politics of Housing and Urban Development students publish results of a study of Philadelphia homes in Southwest Center City repaired by grants provided through the Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP) 

Around the time I was applying to grad school, I came across an article in the Penn Gazette about Professor John Kromer and his book "Fixing Broken Cities." Even as a Penn graduate, I did not know much about the Fels program, but was immediately drawn to the content of the book - lessons learned from Philadelphia's redevelopment and revival, along with stories from other cities struggling with population loss and disinvestment. Working in finance in NY, I was secretly interested in economic development and urban renewal, and this book seemed to exactly describe the kind of work I would like to do.

Fast forward a couple of years and I am now at Fels taking John Kromer's class for which I am reading "Fixing Broken Cities." One of the reasons I chose Fels is because the courses are taught by practitioners who focus the coursework around their experiences on the ground. Politics of Housing and Urban development has been a crash course on a myriad of different development and housing strategies and why some fail and others succeed, without forgetting the important role played by politics. While most coursework at Fels try to focus on real-world case studies, contributing to an actual report that looks into the effectiveness of a never before researched program gives the project that much more meaning and purpose.

In this project, class members compiled information about the 68 BSRP houses and conducted on-site surveys in order to determine whether the low-income homeowners who had lived in them during the time in which they were repaired have since remained in their homes or whether--for one reason
or another—they no longer live there.

Two class members also investigated a related question: as a future policy, should the City place liens on properties that receive BSRP-funded repairs, so that the City’s investment can be recovered at the time of property sale,
with the lien proceeds used to fund future BSRP cases?

Having the opportunity to present the findings to politicians, community representatives and agency managers brings to bear the importance of the data and how it might shape policy going forward. Seeing the range of reactions from the various city officials put into perspective the politics of city programs and how differing constituencies inform their position on the findings and potential next steps.

Read the Report: Outcomes of a Housing Preservation Program in a Changing Neighborhood, Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program in Southwest Center City

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