Promise for rent

A new partnership to preserve and develop moderate-cost rental housing in the University City area was announced earlier this month.

At an Oct. 12 gathering to announce the partnership, representatives from local universities and the worlds of finance, real estate and politics filled a grassy corner of Clark Park at 43rd and Baltimore as area farmers set up their wares nearby.

The program, dubbed “The Partnership for Quality Housing Choices in University City,” is a partnership among Penn, Fannie Mae, Trammell Crow Company, University of the Sciences and First Union National Bank.

The partnership will purchase rental properties in West Philadelphia, rent them to University and non-University tenants and manage the units.

Speaker after speaker said they had an interest in protecting the diversity and inclusiveness of the neighborhood.

“So much of the diversity and vibrancy of this neighborhood is due to the rental housing,” said President Judith Rodin. “But the many houses that have been weakened by years of negative investment threaten that vibrancy.”

West Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, State Representative Jim Roebuck, and State Senator Anthony Williams all took the podium to express their support for the partnership.

Williams talked about his childhood in Southwest Philadelphia. "We need people who will … return this neighborhood to the standards I grew up with here," he said. "Clearly, Jannie and I would not be here today if the dirty words of gentrification and takeover were part of this agenda."

Area residents at the event said they hoped the new partnership would buy properties from landlords who allow their properties to fall into dangerous disrepair.

Each member of the partnership brings a different field of expertise to the project. Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest source of financing for home mortgages, works extensively in low- and mid-income housing. Trammell Crow is a national real estate services and management company. University of the Sciences is a neighborhood institution with a stake in its home turf. And First Union is helping finance the whole affair.

“Penn has owned and operated rental housing here for over 20 years,” said Tom Lussenhop, Penn’s Managing Director for Institutional Real Estate. “The difference is, now we’re bringing in other players” with experience in moderate-income housing and facilities management.


Originally published on October 26, 2000