About Philadelphia Apartments

Welcome to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania blog. This blog contains a wealth of information about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Apartment living, and housing opportunities in our great city and other metro areas of the U.S.. Learn about efforts at restoring architectural relics of the past - former factories, warehouses, schools, hotels, hospitals, train stations - into first-class houses and apartments, and in preserving these distinguished residential communities for future generations. Please enjoy your stay on our Philadelphia apartments blog and feel free to share your stories on life in Philly and the city of brotherly love. In addition, we welcome all commentaries regarding building remodeling, home remodeling, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and house hunting. Thank You!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rehabilitating the Housing Authority

Philadelphia Inquirer

This old agency is in dire need of repairs. The legislature can help.

The maelstrom surrounding the Philadelphia Housing Authority and its former executive director, Carl Greene, has yielded promises to do better. We can probably expect a new director, and maybe some new direction, soon.

But all may be for naught if we don't address the root of the problem: the lack of coordination between the Housing Authority and the city government. That can't be remedied without state legislation, which determines how the Housing Authority is run.

As it stands, the commonwealth requires the authority's governing board to include two members appointed by the mayor, two appointed by the city controller, and a fifth chosen by the other four members who is supposed to represent tenants. As such, the agency does not have to coordinate its efforts with the city administration. Regardless of his or her morality and competence, no PHA executive director is obligated to heed the city government or its elected officials.

No other U.S. housing authority of any size is run this way. The PHA's counterparts in other cities are generally controlled by mayors and city councils.

It took a scandal

We need to make the Philadelphia Housing Authority - which has a $400 million budget and ranks fourth nationwide in housing units - similarly accountable to the city.

The state law governing Pennsylvania's housing authorities was written during the Great Depression. The structure of government has changed dramatically since then, and public housing has become a far greater part of the city. Its integration with city planning and budgets is long overdue.

It shouldn't have taken a scandal to make us recognize the problems inherent in the Housing Authority's long-standing lack of accountability. True, the PHA - like many other housing authorities in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country - has taken advantage of changes in federal policy and demolished many dangerous, crumbling high-rises. And it has replaced some of their units with safer, cleaner, more efficient, low-rise housing. But that shouldn't have blinded everyone to the agency's flaws.

Now several members of Philadelphia's legislative delegation have promised to press for reforms to the Housing Authority's structure and oversight. The state House Urban Affairs Committee plans to hold a public hearing Thursday on updating and improving the state housing authorities law (Act 265 of 1937).

Corrective measures
I will be urging lawmakers to take the following steps:

Add a provision saying that all Housing Authority board members appointed by elected officials serve at the pleasure of those who appointed them.

Expand the PHA board to include seven members, as the legislature did in Pittsburgh, four of whom are appointed by the mayor.

Instead of the city controller, give City Council, which is intimately involved in housing and community development, the power to choose two appointees to the board. One should be picked by Council's majority leader, and the other by the minority leader.

Create a mechanism for Housing Authority tenants to choose their own representatives.

Eliminate the recently enacted provision calling for five-year contracts for Housing Authority employees. Three years is a more reasonable term.

Subject all Housing Authority subsidiaries and related organizations to the rules that apply to public agencies, including the open-meetings and right-to-know laws.

Require that the financial statements of any Housing Authority subsidiary or related organization be consolidated with the financial statements of the Housing Authority.

The state legislature cannot let this issue fester much longer. The current controversy could bring the PHA to a near-standstill and jeopardize its ability to qualify for some federal funds.

Pennsylvania needs to move quickly to change the way the Philadelphia Housing Authority is run. Some of our neediest citizens depend on it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Philadelphia School Partnership Launches

Kansas City Star

Organization Pledges to Raise $100 Million to Support High Performing Charter, District and Parochial Schools in Philadelphia
Today marks the official launch of the Philadelphia School Partnership-- a collaboration of business leaders, foundations, city leaders and educators from the School District of Philadelphia, public charter and parochial schools. The goal of the Philadelphia School Partnership is to make Philadelphia the highest performing city in the country in terms of educational achievement by 2015. The Philadelphia School Partnership will do this by increasing the pace of education reform in Philadelphia and by financially supporting great schools that can serve additional students within the charter, District and parochial school systems.

The Philadelphia School Partnership has established a five-year goal to raise $100 million and to strategically invest the funds in initiatives that will directly increase student performance across Philadelphia. To date, the Philadelphia School Partnership board and anonymous donors have seeded this fund with $16 million.

"The Philadelphia School Partnership speaks, acts and stands for quality education for the children of Philadelphia, wherever they attend school,” said Mike O’Neill, Chair of the Philadelphia School Partnership Board of Directors. “This organization is a public recognition that we share more educational goals than differences and that now, more than ever, Philadelphia has to pull together to support this common agenda.”

Central to the Philadelphia School Partnership’s approach is working with innovators from the three major schools systems in the City: public charter, District and parochial. The organization will invest in high performing schools that agree to be held accountable for achieving outstanding levels of academic achievement for the students they serve. The organization will monitor school performance and will continue to work only with schools that achieve the highest levels of student achievement.

The Philadelphia School Partnership has the support of city and state leadership, including Mayor Michael A. Nutter who commented on the impact of the organization.

“The Philadelphia School Partnership can be a powerful and inclusive new force in the city with the ability to create tremendous positive change for the children in all of our schools,” he said. “We support their focus on creating quality seats and on activating parents as the primary advocates for their children.”

A launch event will occur today at 10 am at the National Constitution Center. Remarks will be provided by Mike O’Neill, Nick Torres; Executive Director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Representative Dwight Evans, State Senator Anthony H. Williams and Lori Shorr; Chief Education Officer from the Mayor’s Office of Education. More than 200 top education, government, business and philanthropic stakeholders are expected to attend the announcement.

Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is a collaboration of business leaders, foundations, city and state leaders and educators from public charter, District and parochial schools. The organization works to ensure that every child in Philadelphia attends a great school and graduates from high school prepared for college or the work world.

The goal of the Philadelphia School Partnership is to make Philadelphia the highest performing city in the country in terms of educational achievement by 2015. To get there, the organization leverages philanthropic giving to serve as a catalyst to increase student achievement in schools across Philadelphia.