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Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

Philadelphia partners with AARP to create a livable city for all, unveils five-year action plan

A report eight years in the making published on July 22, targets improving housing, transportation and outdoor spaces to make the city more friendly for all.

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Eight years ago, Philadelphia entered the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and Communities Network with the help of AARP. 

The goal of the move was to study ways to make Philadelphia a more equitable and friendly living space for all of the city’s age groups, races, cultures and socioeconomic classes.

To accomplish the feat required years of work on the part of the city, AARP Pennsylvania’s Livable Communities Network, and more than 57 community organizations that partnered to conduct the study and brainstorm solutions to make Philadelphia more livable for all.

The end study was supposed to be unveiled earlier in the year, but like most things in 2020, was held off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the social unrest surrounding the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Titled, “Philadelphia, An Age-Friendly, Livable City for All,” the action plan pinpoints housing, transportation and outdoor space as three areas where the city can improve over the next five years to make itself more livable.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who commented on the action plan during its announcement on the morning of July 22, called it “aspirational.”

Amid coronavirus pandemic, Kenney said the city has taken its fair share of financial hits, but stressed the plan’s goals were “something to continue talking about.”

“We want a Philadelphia where people can spend their entire lives,” he said.

Under the housing branch of the recommendations, a push for more affordable housing across Philadelphia took center stage for the elder population and the disabled.

In Philadelphia, the plan found, 40% of its older population lives in poverty, with 8% living in deep poverty.

Part of the recommendations under the banner involve better promotion for longtime assistance programs like LOOP (Longtime Owner Occupant Program), which offers relief from real estate taxes that have gone up more than 50% in a year, and better resources for the plethora of repair and aid programs offered by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), including its Basic Systems Repair program, Adaptive Modifications program and Weatherization Assistance program.

Suggestions also included more outreach to non-English speaking communities about the programs above, more incentives to property owners to build affordable housing and a permanent appropriation of general funds to the city’s Housing Trust Fund towards affordable housing.

Under transportation, the plan asks for more collaboration between the city and SEPTA to make public transport “safe, affordable, reliable and accessible for people of all ages and abilities.” That includes upping cleanliness, making all stops accessible and increasing police presence at stations.

Further transportation recommendations strive for the city to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030.

For outdoor spaces, the goal in five years is to both enhance the quality and quantity of the city’s public green spaces, and to increase and improve the public programming in Philadelphia’s public buildings like libraries and rec centers.

Councilmember Kendra Brooks, who chairs City Council’s Committee on Intergenerational Affairs and Aging, said during the pandemic, efforts such as the city’s new five-year action plan are more important than ever.

“We must listen to the voices and struggles of the city’s most vulnerable,” she said. “This will light the way in these dark times.”

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations, focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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