Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded in December 2014, The Healthy Rowhouse Project is a growing coalition of organizations in the fields of health, housing, planning and preservation dedicated to improving substandard conditions and health in rowhouses owned by lower-income Philadelphians.
The Healthy Rowhouse Project is funded by the Oak Foundation. Twenty Philadelphia leaders have joined the Advisory Committee. They are lending their expertise to recommend comprehensive Healthy Rowhouse policy, design, construction, and financing tools to assist rowhouse owners to improve their housing quality.
Philadelphia rowhouses are an extraordinary asset that allows the city to offer homeownership to a higher share of low-income households than almost any city in the country.
Philadelphia’s rowhouses, an affordable, energy-efficient and durable form of housing, make up 70% of all homes in the city. Homeowners include 78% of Philadelphians over age 60. In addition, rowhouses provide homes for approximately 40% of all renters. Yet these rowhouses are deteriorating faster than their owners can repair them.
75% of the city’s rowhouses are over 50 years old. The most recent American Housing Survey found that housing quality is most commonly impaired by water leaks from outside, water leaks from inside, cracks in the walls, and roofing problems.
Deterioration is one of the leading causes of housing abandonment. In one study, one in four homes with cracks in the wall and one out of seven homes with holes in the roof were abandoned within five years of reporting the problem.
Homes in poor repair literally make their inhabitants sick. Substandard conditions like mold, mildew, lead paint, and pests create and perpetuate health conditions like asthma and lead poisoning in the most vulnerable populations. In fact, 40% of asthma episodes are due to asthma triggers in the home, representing $5 billion annually in preventable medical costs. A 2013-2014 pilot program in Philadelphia found that removing asthma triggers in the home significantly improved the health of children living there, confirming multiple studies that found housing repairs can result in significant health improvements for occupants.
Philadelphia’s rowhouses are durable and affordable. They can last for another century. Philadelphia developed a large stock of attached single-family homes for working-class families before World War II. These rowhouses define Philadelphia neighborhoods and give this city its particular character and distinctiveness. While other cities built apartment buildings to house their workforces, Philadelphia’s locally controlled savings and loan associations financed the “model workingman’s home”, a simple rowhouse that astonished visitors at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Built of brick, these houses have remained largely intact even as the city’s population has declined by almost 25%. As a result, Philadelphia has a significant, irreplaceable supply of affordable homes for low- and moderate- income households.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)
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Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster
Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.
I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.