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City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier standing in front of a large sign held by four people. The sign reads "Inaction = Death, Housing Saves Lives" with a pink triangle against a black background next to the text.
City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier speaks at an affordable housing rally. Photo credit: Eliot Olaya/AL DÍA.

A call to action for affordable housing in Philly

Outside City Hall, a coalition of local organizations held a rally Thursday to push for more affordable housing, rent control, and told their stories.

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On September 15, the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities (PCAC) held a rally before Philadelphia’s City Hall to urge council members to take action against the decline of affordable housing.

PCAC is composed of several affordable housing organizations including leading disability, faith, labor, and urban agriculture organizations across the city, representing approximately 80,000 Philadelphians.

Rally participants spoke about how the cost of rent was rising in comparison to stagnant wages and the inequalities, of a lack of rent control to stop this, and of how people were sleeping in the streets because homeless shelters were too full to let them in.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier attended the rally, speaking briefly on her commitment to affordable housing and the issues homeowners and renters face as they try to keep their homes.

Across Philadelphia, nearly 50% of renters are cost burdened, with a third of all homeowners being cost burdened, as well. In Gauthier’s district — the Third District —  the number of cost burdened households rises to 50%.

What determines if a household is cost burdened is if the household spends more than 30% of their income paying for housing.

Some however, have criticized this method of determining house affordability for not accounting for a rising cost of living or how lower income homeowners are often more impacted by housing costs than higher income homeowners.

“Finding ways to affordable homes cannot be more important or urgent at this moment. Solving our housing crises will require bold solutions that tap into underutilized resources,” Gauthier said.

“That's why we need to take advantage of publicly owned vacant land. The city's thousands of unused parcels are one of our best opportunities to have land uses in our communities that are beneficial for our residents. That includes permanent affordable housing, but also community facilities, urban gardens and farms and much more,” Gauthier continued, referring to the unused lots of land across Philadelphia, though the majority are privately owned and can be in violation of city maintenance codes.

“Community controlled permanently affordable homes are the only way that we won’t be back in this crisis several years down the road,” she added.

Another speaker was Domonique Howell, a member of ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today) and disabled Black woman, who spoke about her experiences with Philadelphia’s nursing homes and the intolerable conditions she has witnessed.

Domonique Howell, a Black woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair. She is wearing a paper badge that reads "Don't opt out of affordable, accessible housing"
ADAPT member Domonique Howell. Photo credit: Eliot Olaya/AL DÍA.

For her, affordable housing was a way to gain autonomy and independence, to no longer rely on the systems that has failed her.

“They don't have any say over what they eat, what they do. It’s very unsanitary, especially in Philadelphia,” Howell said to AL DÍA after the rally. “So many people, so many of our allies — our dads, our sisters, our brothers — have died in the nursing home during the pandemic because the health precautions are not met.”

“It’s not a good place to die. You can be laying there soiled, telling them you have to go to the bathroom and they do nothing about it. If you are a person who can't feed themselves when they are hungry, you have to wait and you may not be able to eat. It’s a horrible place to live,” Howell continued.

The city of Philadelphia has created a list of violations to recognize if your landlord is engaging in unfair rental practices.

Philadelphia residents facing eviction can access a list of organizations compiled by the Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services that may be able to provide rental assistance.

Additionally, a list of Philadelphia district and at-large council members can be found on the city council website, along with ways to reach them.

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