A lack of adequate housing plagues cities across the nation and Camden, New Jersey is no exception. In recent decades, Camden's population has declined from 120,000 to less than 80,000 residents, leaving behind blighted homes and abandoned properties providing cover for illegal activities. As a group, we will investigate ways cities overall can turn blighted, abandoned homes into affordable housing.


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"In a Dream, I saw a city Invincible" - Walt Whitman


Camden, is a city located in Camden County right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Incorporated as a city on February 13, 1828. Camden served as a secondary economic and transportation hub for the Philadelphia area. Originally a suburban town with ferry service to Philadelphia, Camden evolved into its own city, as industry and neighborhoods grew. It employed an estimated 36,000 workers in its shipyards during World War II and built some of the nations largest warships( "Camden, New jersey"). Camden was home to major industries from RCA Victor to Campbell soup. In conjunction with the rise of industry a sudden influx of people occurred. After years of economic and industrial growth, the city of Camden faced years of rising crime and blight. As of 2006, 52% of the residents lived in poverty, one of the highest in the nation. With a median household income of $18,007 making it America's poorest city( Edges, November). The housing market in the city has become depressed over the years. A higher share of housing unit in the city of Camden lacks essential components than those in the county and state as a whole. Many housing units remain vacant in the city of Camden and homelessness is at an all time rise. As a result crack houses have sprung up amid the boarded-up factories and burned out houses in Camden. The U.S Housing Act of 1937 made way for the Housing Authority of the city of Camden which have been serving the residents of camden since 1938. Today Camden Housing Authority serves 4,000 residents annually with three high-rises for seniors and physically challenged and also providing home ownership development ("The Housing Authority"). In 1965, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act created HUD as Cabinet-level agency. The Housing Authority offers The Housing Choice Voucher program made available through HUD. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. Their mission is to provide adequate and professional service in enabling families to choose their place of residency within the City of Camden through a housing choice voucher and through project based vouchers ("Hud History,"). Other housing organizations, along with a number of homeless shelters, have been established as well such as, the Heart of Camden established in 1984 ("The Housing Authority"). The Camden Lutheran Housing Inc was established in 1986 amongst many other non-profit corporations with the same mission which is to build houses, help the community and strengthen the city of Camden.

Development of Neighborhoods
A sudden influx of the population of Camden occurred in conjunction with the rise of industry during the last two decades of the Nineteenth Century. The population Growth Chart illustrates the population trends in Camden from 1830, shortly following the incorporation of the city, to the 1980. The left hand column indicates Camden’s population in thousands. The most dynamic growth period occurred between the years 1870 and 1920, rising from 20,000 to 116,000 people. Similar trends occurred throughout industrializing cities of the Eastern Seaboard, when rural populations and new immigration migrated to these cities which had ample employment opportunities.
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The ethnic character of Camden changed radically between these decades. By the turn of the century, German, British and Irish immigrants dominated, while by 1920, Italian and Eastern European immigrants were the majority. These ethnic groups formed their individual insular communities within Camden with a church or synagogue as the center of social life.
The Polish community developed in the area surrounding St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Mechanic and Tenth Street in 1913. The dominating force of the church in this Polish-American community is reflected by the strong Baroque architecture of the church which includes a five story bell tower, a visual landmark for that community. A row of houses on Tenth Street leading to the transept of the Church are constructed of similar to that employed on the church facade, forming one of the best streetscapes in the city.
The Jewish community located in the Parkside area formed the Congregation Sons of Israel, the first Orthodox synagogue in South Jersey. This synagogue no longer remains and the congregation has long since removed to Cherry Hill. The only remaining vestige of the Jewish population in Camden is the Moorish-inspired Temple Beth El designed by architects Edwards and Green at Park Boulevard and Belleview St.
The Italian neighborhood grew in the Bergen-Lanning area. Through the church and numerous social organizations, the Italian population of Camden had great influence on political and economic affairs of the city. Antonio Mecca’s White House at the corner of Fourth and Division Streets is the best remaining example of the former character of this neighborhood. The White House, a two story Mediterranean Villa built in 1908 for realtor and mortician Antonio Mecca, is situated close proximity to two Roman Catholic churches, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 832 South 4th Street, and the church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Spruce and St. John Streets. The Italian Baptist Mission at 252 Line Street is another historic remnant of the Italian community.

A Historical Site

Walt Whitman House
Step back in time to the humble dwelling of the "Good Gray Poet," Walt Whitman. Constructed in 1848, this modest wooded framed structure built in Greek-revival style was the only home ever owned by Walt Whitman. Here is where Whitman grew to international fame as the author of Leaves of Grass, hosted visitors from around the world and completed his last comprehensive volume of poetry before his death in 1892. Today, as a New Jersey State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, the restored Whitman House welcomes visitors from around the world who come to experience the last worldly surroundings of America's great "Poet of Democracy."
An Interesting Article:

Other Type of Housing?- Tent City

On the Route 676 ramp a collection of blue and gray tents protected by a tarp are stationed. The tent city is overseen by a man named Lorenzo Banks, age 57. He provided the repaired tents for the homeless for $10 each. The city has a population of about 60 people, ranging in age from 18 to 76. A law has been established in the tent city; all drugs are band, eviction occurs after two warnings, a bank account was set up for the congregation, and residents take turns standing guard at night.

Recent Policy

The city of Camden’s housing market and housing conditions can be considered to be somewhat intricate. The complexity of the housing issues comes with a long history of social controversies that began to plague the city most notably after War World II. However, it would be impractical to try and pin point one single significant event or aspect about the city that can be solely liable for the depressed market conditions. Problems such as: Low income wages, decline/lack of a middle class, drugs/violence, environmental degradation, education, infrastructure, etc. have harmoniously and unsuspectingly caused for the downfall of the Camden housing market. Although this list proves to be quite eclectic and maybe a bit overwhelming, the housing market and conditions shows promise. Several organizations and agencies have committed themselves to re-establishing Camden’s housing market by rehabilitating homes and providing financial counseling and resources (affordable housing) for families and homeowners in need of aid.

Rehabilitating Homes/ Neighborhoods

The U.S census Bureau conducted an American Community Survey which resulted in very telling information. 5.9% of housing units in Camden lack complete plumbing facilities and 7.1% lack complete kitchen facilities. These numbers become more significant when compared to the entire state of New Jersey’s average of just 0.8% and 1.0% respectively. Perhaps, these findings indicate the dire conditions of housing in Camden and it reveals the need for rehabilitation of the current homes in the city. Furthermore, the city of Camden has an above average number of vacant/abandoned homes and underutilized commercial properties.

The good news is that there are many groups and organizations working on restoring the city's once dynamic housing market by rehabilitating and upgrading homes. First, there is the Camden Home Improvement Program (CHIP). CHIP provides housing rehabilitation assistance to Camden's homeowners. "Thanks to the support of Economic Recovery Board, the NJ Department of Community Affairs, and the City of Camden, CHIP offers loans up to 20, 000 dollars to eligible Camden homeowners to fund essential repairs and rehabilitation costs" (Camden Home Improvement Association). Some of the repairs that CHIP provides are: weatherization repairs that prevent future deterioration of the home (i.e. windows/roofing), building water/sewer/heating/ventilation systems, and exterior improvements to improve the charm of the neighborhood.

Another organization that works on improving the quality of housing in Camden is the Heart of Camden organization. It was established in 1984 and its mission is: “to improve the quality of life for the children of the neighborhood of Waterfront South by providing safe, decent, affordable housing for families”. Since their opening they have rehabilitated 220 and homes and developed a community parking lot on Broadway available for public use. What is even more remarkable is their efforts to make the city more "green" and environmentally welcoming. They installed seven sturdy trashcans on Broadway that are contributing to helping keep neighborhoods clean in order to provide a more alluring atmosphere for the residents. Their greenhouse project is another example of their determination to provide the city with more "green". Similarly, the Heart of Camden organization's Ferry Avenue Streetscape project has enhanced the overall esthetic of a neighborhood by installing adequate lighting, fixing sidewalks of the entire block, and adding garden boxes in front of homes.

The Camden Council of Economic Opportunity is a nonprofit agency aimed at assisting underprivileged and economically disadvantage people in Camden by motivating and providing resources. Specifically, the housing department (Housing Construction and Rehabilitation Program) of this agency does new construction on houses for sale to economically disadvantaged families. The agency builds homes with three large bedrooms, one or one a half bathrooms, full basement, open living/dining rooms, modern kitchen, landscape/yards, and off street parking. The Camden Council of Economic Opportunity has provided home ownership to 63 families since December 2007.

Financial Assistance/ Affordable Housing

The depressed housing market is also illustrated in the housing costs and ownership patterns. The U.S census Bureau’s American Community Survey also shows that more than 60 percent of Camden City families living in rental housing pay more than 30 percent of their overall income towards rent. When analyzing these findings, one can determine that along with the rehabilitation of homes, the residents of Camden also need resources available to help them aid and manage their finances so that burden of living in their house can be reduced.

In order to help some of the residents attain some sort of financial stability, The city of Camden has partnered with 5 local institutions and developed a Employer Assisted Housing Program as a way to get people to "Work Here, Play Here, Live Here". Cooper University Hospital, Camden County College, Lourdes Medical Center, Rowan University, and Virtua employees are provided incentives if they choose to purchase a home in the neighborhood near their employer. Applications, policies, and procedures vary for each institution. Cooper university hospital offers employees purchasing a home in Cooper Plaza or Lanning Square neighborhoods $1000 in housing assistance that will be used as primary residence. All employees that are eligible must be employed with Cooper for at least 12 months at the time of request. Eligible properties include new and existing 1 family homes, new and existing condominium units, and existing 2 to 4 family unit properties. The purchased property must remain occupied as employees primary residence for 24 months following closing/settlement. There is no minimum or maximum purchase required. Lourdes Medical Center offers its employees a $5000 loan for closing cost to their employees who are looking for a home in Parkside Neighborhood. The loan will be repaid at $1000 per year. The loan will be forgiven after 5 years or if the employee becomes disabled, dies, or is involved in reduction of employment. The loan must be repaid if the employee voluntarily leaves or is terminated with cause.

The housing authority of the city of Camden (HACC) is another agency that was established to aid the residents of Camden with housing sine 1983 when its first development, Westfield Acres opened 514 units to meet household needs. Today, the organization serves 4000 residents annually. One specific program that the HACC uses is the Housing Voucher program. in 2010, this programprovided subsidy to 10 new homeowners through our Homeownership Program, awarded 60 Veterans Administration Special Housing Vouchers ofwhich 39 homeless veterans where housed within 2010 and out of 1239 subsidized housing, 107 were seniors and 1, 954 children withinhouseholds.

There is also many rental assistance programs and homebuyer education and credit counseling services for Camden City residents. One of those program is the Camden County Council on Economic Opportunity is a private non profit organization that provides funds for rental payment assistance. The Center for Family Service Housing First program provides temporary financial assistance, housing relocations, and budget counseling to individuals and families. Also the Board of Social Services provides rental and housing assistance to residents that receive TANF or SSI. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds and approves organizations that offer education and counseling on home buying for urban cities. Neighborhood Housing Services of Camden Inc. located on Clinton St provide the basic knowledge and easy access resources needed to make decisions through out the home buying process. They also provide counseling services to first time home buyers in order to help them gain a mortgage. Along with Neighborhood Housing Services of Camden Inc. there is also the Parkside Business and Community in Partnership that offers a free homebuyer education course for residents of Camden.

The Concentration of Affordable Housing
After completing several calculations based from the information provided by the New Jersey Guide to Affordable Housing, it is clear that Camden City holds an extremely high number of affordable housing units within the city boundaries. In comparison to the rest of Camden County, Camden City holds 41% of all of the affordable housing units in the entire county. Even more striking is that fact that Camden City holds 76.8% of all of the FAM developments within the entire county. FAM developments are specifically made available for families who meet a specific income requirement. Such a reality poses a problem for poor children, since the location of affordable units is systemically decided. Therefor, a poor child is automatically 76.8% more likely to live in Camden City, a city which struggles with crimes, food insecurity, a poor educational results. *Although these are high statistics, there are many CDC's and nonprofit organizations that has evolved and contributed to the affordable housing market to produce adequate housing to these poor and underprivileged households. There will always be the poor among every city more so than most, but the concentration should remain focused on the quality and adequacy of the housing sector for the less fortunate and struggling families. One such nonprofit organization that is participating in the housing arena would be the "Heart of Camden." This nonprofit organization is located in the Waterfront South of Camden. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has for three decades successfully completed housing and other development projects. HOC has assisted 206 families arrange mortgages on existing and restructured residential structures since 1983 to 2011. Their focus is revitalization, which is done by helping the residents buy their own homes with assistance. The Heart of Camden is a viable resource for the residents because it assists them in owning their own homes which in turn re-establishes the neighborhoods.There will always be renters and rental units, but to bring Camden back to a profitable state, would be to create permanent residency. There are many resources that can be obtained by the residents of the City of Camden, such as the, Volunteers of America, and many more.

Everett, Brian K. "Concentration of Affordable Housing Yields Concentration of Poverty." NJ Poverty Reality. N.p., 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <>.

Bloom, Brenda Bratton. "Review: Compendium Helpful for New and Experienced Practitioners." Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law 15.3 (2006): 237-56. May 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <>.

Housing & Blight

Camden has had a long history with abandoned properties throughout the city. According to a two-year survey done by CamConnect, approximately 15% of properties in Camden are abandoned, totaling 3,417 buildings. The amount of abandoned properties is due in part to significant population lose Camden has experienced since the 1960’s, leaving behind a surplus of unneeded housing stock. The issue is so widespread that every neighborhood in Camden contains an abandoned building.

Abandoned buildings are serious problems because they are hotbeds for crime, squatters and drug users. These properties have been prone to both arson and accidental fires, which have spread to and damaged other, occupied homes. During 2014, almost half of the homicides in Camden occurred in abandoned buildings. Another hurdle regarding abandoned properties is the cost to raze them. It is estimated to cost between $15,000-$30,000 to demolish one abandoned home, depending on the state of the building.

In addition to being safety hazards, abandoned properties reduce both quality of life and property values. Additionally, for residents of Camden it is more difficult to get homeowner’s insurance, because of the number of abandoned properties in the area. Abandoned homes are so widespread throughout the city, that several elected officials live connected to abandoned properties, Including Mayor Dana Redd, Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson and Freeholder Scot McCray.

The issue has become such a problem that the city of Camden enacted an abandoned properties ordinance in 2004, which requires the City to compile and maintain a list of abandoned properties. Furthermore, the ordinance allows the Mayor to appoint a public officer to identify abandoned buildings in the city. The public officer is also tasked with giving both the Mayor and Council periodic updates regarding the number and location of abandoned properties. Some have criticized the City for not maintaining an accurate list of abandoned homes. For instance, the city estimates there to be approximately 1,600 abandoned properties, while a survey by CamConnect lists 3,417.

Recent reports state that 600 abandoned properties are slated to be demolished with funds from a community development block grant. Additionally, Camden has recently bonded $8,000,000 to help fund the cost of dealing with abandoned properties. However, the city is having problems soliciting an adequate bid to start the demolition of properties in Whitman Park. Although the first bid did not yield a winning bid, the City said it plans to move forward with another bid and hopes to start the demolitions in the near future. One of the strategies the city has utilized to deal with abandoned homes is to board them up in an attempt to prevent unauthorized occupants. In the summer of 2014 an organization within the city began a program beautify abandoned properties in an effort to preserve them.

As of January 20, 2015, Camden started their demolition program where they aim to knock down 600 abandoned buildings within the next 18 months. Step one consists of targeting the first 62 homes in Camden's Whitman Park neighborhood. Camden has demolished 646 abandoned properties, and boarded up more than 2,200 within the last several years, with more to follow.


Shelly, K. Demolition plans for abandoned Camden homes in Limbo. Courier Post, October 31st, 2014.

Camden abandoned properties ordinance. Retrieved from code 360 on November 10th 2014.

Courier Post. Camden program upgrades abandoned homes. June 4th, 2014.

Vargas, C. Camden belated in blight offensive. Philadelphia Inquirer, April 17th, 2011.

Shelly, K. Survey: Nearly 15 percent of Camden properties abandoned. Courier Post, August 25th, 2014.

Shelly, K. Redd, other Camden officials live among abandoned homes. Courier Post, September 14th, 2014.

Mathis, Joel. Camden to Begin Demolition of Blighted Buildings. PhillyMag. January 20th 2015.

Steele, Allison. Camden plan to demolish properties still leaves blight problem. December 23rd, 2014.

New Residents
Recently, Camden has been attracting new residents to its communities following an $8.8 million project in the Cooper Plaza area of the city. The new homes begin at $162,000 and cap around $229,000. As of September there had been 24 constructed and five remained to be sold. M&M Development is responsible for these new additions to the Cooper Plaza neighborhood, a construction firm based out of Newark, New Jersey. The firm plans to acquire abandoned housing on Berkley Street in order to build 6 more structures, creating a total of 30 new homes. These homes and developments move to benefit the City of Camden by bringing about families of higher income who can better contribute to Camden's need for a tax base, all while sprucing up the neighborhood M&M has chosen.

Laday, Jason. "Camden Housing Development Attracting New Neighbors." N.p., 07 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <>.


Home ownership is the American dream; while any housing initiative in the City of Camden to assistance with that endeavor is positive, there seems to be a critical mass of residents underserved. There is very little rental assistance for low to moderate income families within the city.

The Camden Home Improvement Program (CHIP) administered by Cooper’s Ferry Partnership caters to those who are already homeowners. The program provides loans that are eligible to be forgiven to homeowners meeting a certain set of criteria. Improvements eligible for funding must be considered life safety improvements, building systems, weatherization or exterior aesthetic improvements.
  • Life Safety
    • Emergency Access
    • Electrical
    • Gas
  • Plumbing
    • Water
    • Sewer
    • Heating
    • Ventilation
  • Weatherization Improvements to improve the aesthetics of the property, therefore positively impacting the neighborhood.
    • Roofing
    • Windows
    • Doors
    • Waterproofing
    • Exterior Improvements

The homeowner must apply for a forgivable loan through CHIP, the loan amount is up to $20,000 dollars. This loan will not have to be repaid as long as the homeowner remains in the dwelling for 10 years. Being that the loan is only worth $20,000 dollars, there's a lot of the homes in the City of Camden that have never been repaired a lot of these homes may need several if not all of these repairs done in order for the resident to remain in the dwelling.

There are a few downsides to this program as with many programs. First, there is a waiting list that the homeowner must sign up. The waiting list have unspecific timeframe on how long it would take for before the process may start. Secondly, the homeowner's neighborhood has to be eligible to sign the list or to receive the loan for repairs. And lastly, you must be current on your property taxes, CCMUA, and water bills. This can become a misfortune to some being that their income is severely low that they may not have to funds to pay their utility bills on time.

Neighborhoods Currently Participating
  • Central Business District (6001)
  • Central Waterfront (6005)
  • Cooper Grant (6006)
  • Fairview (6020)
  • Lanning Square (6003)
  • Morgan Village (6019)
  • Parkside (6014)
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The Heart of Camden offers home-ownership options in the Waterfront South Neighborhood. Though rehabilitating homes the Heart of Camden is able to offer homes for sale to income eligible individuals or families. Hearts of Camden homes are affordable meaning your monthly mortgage can be in the range of $500 - $600 per month. The requirements for housing consist of having been employed for 2 years or more. Having a yearly income of $20,000 - $ 25,000 or more and have enough credit to apply for a home loan. In order Although this may seem great , most Camden residents’ credit are not up to par. They also help with the loan process but the applicant must obtain their own loan company.Also, in order to file an application you will be required to sign an agreement of sale for the property you're trying to purchase and a deposit of $500 which is nonrefundable.

Heart of Camden Homes Currently for Sale
  • 1809 Fillmore Street
  • 1924 Fillmore Street
  • 1926 Fillmore Street
  • 2011 Fillmore Street
  • 2021 Fillmore Street
  • 1741 S. 4th Street
  • 1812 S. 6th Street
  • 427 Viola Street
  • 430 Webster Street
  • 433 Winslow Street

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The gamut of home ownership programs in the city range from income eligible to place based initiatives. Some employers offer place based employer assisted housing programs while the city offers an income eligible first time home buyer program. What is missing from the financial assistance and affordable housing initiatives are adequate rental programs.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development housing is considered affordable when the cost of housing amounts to no more than 30 percent of a family’s income. The guidelines do not specify between families renting or owning their homes.

Aside from the Housing Choice Voucher Program or Section 8 and HUD subsidized public and private housing, both of which have waiting lists of a year or more, there are very few rental assistance programs in the city. Those who do not share in the “American Dream” of home ownership have little assistance options if assistance is needed.

While funding levels and resources are limited, the Camden County Council on Economic Opportunity (OEO) works to help the low income make it through a difficult period. Short term financial assistance may be paid out, referrals are offered to government benefits such as section 8, and case managers partner with clients on self-sufficiency. The programs greatly depend on the availability of private and government grants. When possible, the non-profit community action agency will help the unemployed that have a plan to regain self-sufficiency, assistance is for seniors, the disabled, and others from the Camden County New Jersey community.

OEO offers one-time assistance to renters. The Homelessness prevention program will provide back rent to those in danger of being evicted, contingent on the availability of funds. To qualify applicants must:
  • Provide proof of hardship, for example a reduction in hours by the applicant’s employer or lass of employment.
  • A court order for eviction with a docket number.
  • Proof you are able to pay future rent and household expenses.

The OEO also offers first month rent assistance. Applicants must:
  • Provide a lease with address or residence and the address and telephone number of the landlord.
  • Total move-in costs broken down by security deposit and first month’s rent.

While these programs are vital to preventing homelessness for those in imminent danger, there remains a need for ongoing assistance to provide affordable options to renters.


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When planned by William Penn, Philadelphia proper was a small percentage of what present day Philadelphia is comprised of today. Much of what Philadelphia proper currently consists of were townships, villages, and settlements independently incorporated with their own governing bodies, Northern Liberties, West Philadelphia and Germantown are just a few of these towns and districts. In 1854 there was a movement in favor of absorbing the surrounding towns, districts, villages and settlements into Philadelphia. On February 2, 1854 the General Assembly adopted the measure to consolidate the territory under one municipal government. Although ever changing, these neighborhoods remained stable though the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (, n.d.).

During the 1930’s residents of Philadelphia began to feel the effects of the Great Depression. Families faced economic hardship resulting in a rise in foreclosures, loss of life savings, and evictions. In light of these circumstances many of Philadelphia’s residents turned to the Philadelphia Housing Association, formed in 1911. PHA provided shelter for thousands and over the years struggled to provide safe, decent, and sanitary living quarters (Bauman). The federal government absolving itself from the housing market post World War I offered no assistance.

Philadelphia’s residents began to demand the federal government interject. Catherine Bauer and David Edelman joined forces to secure funds from the Housing Division for “modern,” limited-dividend housing for Philadelphia’s ill-housed working class (Bauman). The effort of these two people led to the first public housing in North Philadelphia.

In 1937 the Wagner-Steagall legislation opted for a policy to help with home-ownership for the middle class, but banish the poor and discriminate against the people of color, who were in need the most relief. Although Philadelphia was at the forefront of the abolitionist movement prior to the civil war, the growth of the African American population in the 1900’s was cause for additional housing projects to be built; keeping the two races divided through segregated housing.

In the 1950’s blight had taken hold of the neighborhoods south of Center City, properties were in ill repair and visibly neglected. The Federal Housing Act of 1949 provided the groundwork for projects like Hawthorne Plaza, a housing project meant to address not only the housing needs of low-income family but also social issues that plagued the population. The Act allowed for administrations to acquire blighted property through eminent domain requiring “slum” housing to be razed and replaced with new construction (Haumann, 2011). Although criticized for providing for commercial and luxury housing the Act sparked public housing projects to remediate blight (Haumann, 2011). Thirty projects had been proposed which were similar to Hawthorne Plaza by the middle of the 1950’s.

Philadelphia created the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Planning Commission and Redevelopment Authority all within years of each other. The fourth largest public housing authority in the United States and the largest landlord in Pennsylvania, PHA owns over 14,000 affordable units and serving about 80,000 Philadelphia residents with limited incomes ( Governed by a Board of Commissioners which has full responsibility for management of all operations, the PHA budget totals $371 million with a staff of fourteen hundred (

In 1992 Mayor Ed Rendell was elected, and started to turn the city around, by reducing the debt deficit. Investors started coming into the city to then in turn stabilize the cities finances. Revitalization to certain parts of the city start to happen and then the Convention Center and hotels are born.
By 1999 Mayor John Street was elected. Street targeted the worst neighborhoods for revitalization, and gave tax breaks so to bring more people into the city.

Mayor Nutter, now the current mayor and coming to the city with a business background, has tried to reduce the crime and bring tourism back into the city. Also has created Philadelphia's foreclosure program, to help keep residents in their homes.

Recent Policy

Many of Philadelphia's neighborhoods are in a state of decline. Many homes are aged and deteriorated in low-income communities and there's a large increase in housing abandonment and vacancy. This has contributed to a net decline in the quality and quantity of housing accessible to low-moderate-income populations. These trends are symptomatic of underlying demographic and economic changes over the past 50 years, as suburban growth and the demise of industrialization resulted in a flight of population and jobs from philadelphia. Philadephia unveiled its Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) in April of 2001. NTI is a strategy to rebuild Philadelphia Neighborhoods. Philadelphia also has the "Action Plan" portion of the Year 31 Consolidated Plan which documents the activities that the city of Philadelphia proposes to undertake in Year 31 to accomplished the goals established in the "Strategic Plan." These activities also reflect the City's housing and community development. This “Action Plan” includes a program description of the major programs to be carried out in Year 31 and a list of the housing development organizations selected through a competitive process to receive CDBG or HOME funding to develop housing for low- and moderate-income families. The “Action Plan” also outlines the activities to be funded through the Housing Opportunities or Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program and a budget for the City’s housing and community development activities. In this section of the "Action Plan" describes the City's housing investment strategies that address the housing affordability crisis, produce affordable housing units through rehabilitation and new construction, and promote homeownership as a form of community reinvestment.(NTI,2001)

Homestart Program
Through the Homestart Program the Housing Development Corp. (PHDC) or another developer completes substantial rehabilitation of vacant houses for homeownership in areas where such development will contribute significantly to neighborhood stabilization and recovery. Also through the Homestart program, vacant properties are acquired and developed for sale to qualified individuals or families. Prospective homebuyers with annual income of at least $8,000 and not surpassing the moderate income guidelines of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) apply on a competitive basis to purchase the homes. The ability to secure a mortgage to finance the purchase of the property is required.(NTI, 2001)

New Construction
Construction of new affordable housing for sale to homebuyers is very important in rebuilding blighted areas of Philadelphia. As part of NTI, vacant lots are acquired and assembled into build able sites for new construction housing. New housing construction can rebuild housing markets and increase value in communities. In the Year 31, the city proposes to allocate $2.25 million in Housing and Redevelopment Assistance funding to New Construction homeownership activities which are ready to go to construction.(NTI,2001)

Rental Assistance to the Homeless
In Year 31 OHCD plans to continue its support of the Philadelphia Transitional Housing Program which provides housing counseling, case management and rental assistance to homeless persons to promote self-sufficiency. Also, in Year 31 OHCD plans to continue to provide rental assistance to persons withHIV/AIDS. The City has determined that homeless persons and persons with HIV/AIDS have unmet housing needs and that the provision of rental assistance under the HOME program will narrow the gaps in benefits and services received by these persons.During Year 31 OHCD plans to continue to provide administrative oversight to the competitively awarded federal Shelter Plus Care (S+C) Program. S+C provides rental assistance to homeless persons/ households with histories of mental illness, substance abuse or persons with AIDS through contracts with various non-profit organizations. (NTI, 2001)


In the past, the city of Philadelphia has received some negative press on their housing market. In order to assess the conditions of the housing market/conditions in the greater Philadelphia area, it is important to be informed about why/what/when/where/how the Philadelphia housing market has been scrutinized.

On November 12, 2010, Mark Fazlollah( a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer) published a very telling article entitled "Section 8 landlords sue Philadelphia Housing Authority". In the article, Fazlollah states that the Philadelphia Housing Authority are facing a lawsuit against them from landlords in the region alleging that the agency was fraudulently handling money given to them and using it for their personal enrichment. According to these landlords that were participating in the federally funded program, each of them paid 200 dollars for a training course. The accusation accuses PHA officials of using this money for their own benefit. Specifically, the suit stated that the PHA employees used the money from the training courses for personal enrichment, to lobby for federal funds, and to promote political initiatives.

Furthermore, on June 30, 2011, Jennifer Lin and Mark Fazlollah (Philadelphia Inquirer writers) published another article entitled "Philadelphia Housing Authority defunds tenant-services group". In this article, the writers discuss the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s decisions to cut off funding to a public housing nonprofit headed by Asia Coney. The tenant support services inc paid Asia Coney (the head of the nonprofit and also a tenant) 108, 000 dollars to manage training and other support services for public housing tenants. Long story short, the allegations that Asia Coney was misusing the money have led to an investigation and a discontinuance of PHA and TSSI’s collaboration.

Fast-forward to January 25, 2014- Jennifer Lin’s article entitled “Controversial tenant leader may join PHA board” causes bloggers and residents to feel disheartened. Asia Coney was asked to join the board of commissioners of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Many people find the PHA’s antics unprofessional. A month ago, one particular blogger said : "Hey I don't know about you but I'm stoked to keep paying for more BS at the PHA. Why hasn't it been shut down completely? That's what I'd like to know. Oh wait, because it's a big fat patronage nest for a whole bunch of local Democrats".
" — Bob Dobolino

So what does all of this mean? It means that in the grand scheme of things the real problems are ultimately being overshadowed by the controversial press that the PHA has been receiving for some years now. The originally good hearted motives are now second to the notoriety of these scandals. It also means that the PHA needs to better their management control and redefine the roles of their top officials.

However, if all the housing needs and problems could be pin pointed to the Philadelphia Housing Authority, then perhaps the solution would be simple. Truth is, the problems in the housing market in Philadelphia go beyond one organization's debatable poor managing skills. The housing trust fund of Philadelphia’s website ( suggests that the existing resources are inadequate to address Philadelphia’s housing needs.
“In the last decade, the federal entitlement resources Philadelphia receives have fallen from $97 million in 1994 to $81 million in 2004 (in constant 2003 dollars). Historically, Philadelphia has relied almost exclusively on outside, mostly federal, resources to support housing production. During the past decade, the city’s shrinking entitlement funding has led to a reduction of more than 60 percent in the city’s housing production investment. In the fourth year of the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative to eliminate blight and to prepare land for redevelopment, it is increasingly clear that we must find a way to devote additional resources to housing production in order to build on the vacant land being acquired and prepared for redevelopment”(Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund Project).

Other Cities


The city of Detroit was founded on July 24,1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. A devastating fire swept Detroit in 1805 that destroyed each one of its 200 structures and left one stone warehouse standing. Following the war of 1812, the development of the steamboat, and the opening of the Erie Canal, Detroit began to experience dramatic growth again and was incorporated as a city in 1815.
Around the start of the 20th entrepreneurs in the Detroit area-notably Henry Ford arrived with the development of the automobile industry. The automobile industry soon demanded labor which were filled by huge numbers of new comers from Europe. Between 1900 and 1930 the city's population soared from 265,00 to over 1.5 million pushing the boundaries of the city outward. Population boom lead to the construction of apartment buildings, and new neighborhoods aimed at the middle class auto worker.
Neighborhoods in the Detroit consist of Downtown, Midtown,New Center Area, North, Central, Lower, Upper east, Upper West, South West, and Near West Detroit.
Downtown Detroit is the city's central business district and residence area. Midtown Detroit is an area covering roughly two square miles between downtown Detroit to the South and New Center to North. Its boundaries are Ford and Chrysler. Midtown also includes the Art Center, and Detroit Public Library. The New center are is a mixed use of commercial and residential district adjacent to midtown. The New Center section of Detroit was developed in the 1920's to create a business hub that would offer convenient access to both downtown resources and outlying areas. The Northern area includes neighborhoods which surround the main campus of the University of Detroit. This neighborhood consists of apartment buildings as well as single family homes. In the 1950's and 1960's this was the concentration of Detroit's gay population. The community relocated north out of the city in the 1980's along with the gay oriented business centers and the 1980's and 1990's saw an increase in African American residents to the area.

Masdar City is the leading center for eco-friendly energy production in the world. The Cities investors are applying arabic cultured aesthetics to their infrastructure, which is all being built with modern technology. The city has complete net zero energy production when combining their various forms of renewable energy. They have one of the largest Solar panel installations in the Middle East. The construction of Masdar began in 2008, when they finish construction they will have enough residential space to fit 40,000 people, and also having 50,000 commute for work and shopping daily. They currently have a residential population of a few thousand, which is mostly due to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The total estimated cost currently for total construction cost is 18.7 to 19.8 billion US dollars.

R-2 Cities
R-2 Cities is a residential development project, that aims to construct a nearly zero net energy residential district. Their initiative has already begun to take place in three cities they are Genoa, Istanbul, and Valladolid This organization is one of the winning projects for the Smart cities & Communities of 2011. Their physical project is to go into each of the three cities, and work in one district of each city, and turn it into a "quasi zero" district. The project renovations will happen to 61,000 sq meters of residential space for their first phase, the total space by the end of the project will be of 800,000 sq meters. The investments the individual Cities made for this project is in € not $ and the amounts are Valladolid around 4.840.000, Kartal around 4.480.000, Genoa around 3.900.000. The aim of this organization is to lower carbon dioxide levels for the districts they are working with. The infrastructure they are going to install is "photovoltaic panels, refurbishment of energy systems, and inner solar collector tubes on the façades."

The residential development that is occurring in Mexico is directed at promoting affordable and sustainable homes that are located within communities that have access to public services, urban infrastructure and employment. The corporation that is leading this initiative is Infonavit, they are public sector agency, that wants to give financial opportunities that meet the workers needs of sustainable housing in Mexico. In 2012, Infonavit issued 578,396 mortgages for residential sustainable development, this is 16 percent more than it issued in 2011, and a quarter of the mortgages were used towards previously standing structures. Their expectation for mortgages in 2012 was 490,000, they exceeded their estimation by over 75,000 additional mortgages. The overall value of these mortgages equated to 12.6 billion US dollars. Majority of the workers who get to take advantage of the Infonavit make approximately 580 US dollars. Between 2013 and 2017 they expect to do 2.37 million mortgages all for sustainable housing development.

Recent Policy

In 2012 a non-profit in Detroit, Write-A-House, piloted a program to address vacant lots, sparsely populated neighborhoods and grow the creative economy in the city. The possibility of the success of this project and other similar projects rests on the fact that, much like Camden, Detroit has an abundance of vacant properties.

The Write-A-House project is multi-faceted and complex. It transcends simply housing writers for free. The WAH engages youth in the rehabilitation process. Through vocational training in the construction field this group is not only revitalizing blighted neighborhoods one house at a time, but providing youth with job-skills that will lead to a self-sustainable future.

The mission and goals of the project are simple:
“Write-A-House is a Detroit based organization that seeks to teach and support trade crafts and literary creativity. The key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distresses housing in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts. In short, WAH will work to support a more vibrant literary arts community that lives at a grassroots level and helps Detroit’s neighborhoods.” (

Much like Camden, and many other post-industrial cities people have been steadily leaving the City of Detroit for decades; it will take decades to revitalize the city into vibrant stable communities. Innovative projects like Write-A-House not only start the process, but will hopefully spark other creative thinkers to take out-of-the box approaches to bring people back into cities.


An analysis of housing affordability was conducted in 2004 in Detroit, Michigan. The project was conducted as part of the 2002-2004 CDBG/NOF Evaluation funded through the City of Detroit Planning Commission. The Planning Commission contracted with the research team form the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University to analyze 2000 Census and other data as they relate to housing issues in Detroit. The purpose of the research was to help the city in its quest to formulate strategic approaches for preserving and revitalizing its neighborhoods and ensuring sound, quality, affordable housing for its residents. The analysis found six main finding (Thompson, 2004).
  • A significant amount of Detroit Residents (renters and homeowners) face affordability problems
32% of Detroit's households faced cost burdens in 2000. This equates to 102,282 households. About half o this amount faced severe cost burdens which means that residents spent 50% or more of their income on housing costs. These numbers and percentages greatly exceed those of comparison areas in the region, state, and nation.

  • Affordability problems are more prevalent in renters than homeowners
40% of Detroit renters pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing (cost burden). 23% of Detroit renters pay 50% of their income on housing (severe cost burden).

  • Affordability problems in Detroit are driven more by low-income housing than high costing housing
The concentration of affordability problems in the lowest income group (49 percent of the renter with cost burden earn less that 10,000 annually.

  • There is relatively little variation by CRS Cluster in the percentage of household facing affordability problems.
The percentage of owners (both and without mortgages) facing burden is also generally consistent (within 2 or 3 percentage points of the citywide total) across clusters with a few exceptions. For example, Cluster 5 has a consistently higher percentage of owners with or without mortgages facing cost burden than other clusters.

  • There is substantial variation by CRS Cluster in the number of households facing affordability problems.
Variation by cluster is greater when we look at the actual number of households facing burdens. Clusters 2, 3, and 7 each have around 12,000 households facing cost burdens. Clusters 4, 6, 8, and 9 each have about 10,000 to 11,000 households with cost burdens. Clusters 1, 5, and 10 have about 9200, 7600, and 6200 households with burdens, respectively.

  • Cost burden is more prevalent in the youngest and oldest age groups than in others.
The distribution of renters and homeowners with cost burdens by age group comparable to the distribution of all renters and owners by age group. For example, renters 44 and younger, which account for 60 percent of renter households also account for 62 percent of renter households with cost burdens. Thus, no age group appears to be bearing an unexpectedly large share of the cost burden. However, cost burdens are definitely more prevalent in some age groups than others(Thompson, 2004).

The following seven policy implications can be drawn from the findings of the affordability analysis:
  1. Action by the city government to address housing affordability is warranted.
  2. Supply-based interventions will remain an important component of affordable housing strategy.
  3. Policy interventions will remain an important component of an affordable housing strategy.
  4. Alleviating affordability problems of a substantial number of Detroiters currently facing cost or severe cost burdens will require substantial resources beyond those currently available to the city government.
  5. The city government can adopt policies to address cost and income in order to reduce affordability problems for some Detroit households.
  6. Housing policies/programs that do not directly address affordability (as calculated by federal regulations) can be improved if designed with an awareness of the affordability findings.
  7. Targeting of some housing/community development interventions by geographic area and/or age group is justified (Thompson, 2004).

Detroit is a very vibrant city which has a great history of inventions and attractions, but their urban housing has been a problem for many years, and there is a big problem with blight housing and Gentrification. Detroit has various housing opportunities to help first time home buyers, renters, and investors afford their homes much like many cities in America, but the housing market has had a big slump for many years.

In the last 20 years, Detroit’s population has been decreasing rapidly. This has allowed higher income families and individuals to be able to move into lower income residents, and pretty much move low-income families out of the neighborhood, because housing properties have gone up along with taxes. Theses low-income families can no longer afford to stay in the neighborhood so they have moved on to other cities or other states that are more affordable. This is shutting out certain groups who can’t afford properties that are now for sale.

During the housing crisis period, the quicken loans company decided to move their company into the city of Detroit. They persuaded people who had their homes paid off for many years to use their homes as collateral. To get the homeowners to get these loans, quicken loans constantly mailed them offers for loans to refinance or to beautify their homes. The home owners would then take the loan not knowing that these were predatory lenders. What resulted from the home owners taking the loan were their homes being foreclosure on, because they could not afford to pay back the loan.

Detroit now plans to unveil its plan to create a future city, which is two years in the making. Detroit is planning a three step plan that focuses on the massive decline of its population; enhancing “access to jobs, safety, education, human health, and neighborhood appearance; and they decided what it would take to accomplish those goals. This plan allows the residents to have more say in what they need in their community and it focuses on the main underlying problems of housing the city needs to address.

This plan of a future city is a plan to fill in spaces that are empty, trashed, or places that need to be inhabited. It brings things to neighborhoods that they have never seen. Also, it brings into the city affordable housing for residents who cannot afford traditional housing. The only thing that this plan does not focus on is the rural and suburban areas where housing is also needed. These areas also need housing, so that they are not layer people on top of people. If the city puts housing in the suburbs and the rural areas, then it will spread out housing everywhere.

2014 Class Task Force


A project such as Write-A-House is a creative way to address the challenges presented by vacant and blighted properties. It is a time intensive project that may be well suited to pilot in an already stable neighborhood with a low rate of vacancy compared to the majority of the city.
While Write-A-House itself may not be suitable for Camden, with a few changes to tailor it to the needs of the city, it may be a viable concept in Camden.

After speaking with community leaders and city officials it became apparent Parkside may be the best neighborhood suited to pilot such a program. Parkside, the corridor into the city on Haddon Avenue, is a stable neighborhood with a high rate of home ownership and a relatively low number of abandoned properties relative to the rest of the city. There is exciting development happening, with the completion of the PBCIP RENEW building set for the fall of 2014 and the UEZ providing businesses with the means to update the facade along Haddon Avenue.

The neighborhood is comprised of ninety-eight percent African-Americans, with one of the highest rates of expendable income in the city. A program that attracts artists tailored to the artistic tastes of the community is a creative way to address vacant housing while attracting economic entities that cater to the arts.

The architecture in Parkside is not only beautiful, but historical. It is a travesty to raze these homes, if they are structurally sound, solely based on vacancy. It is advisable to begin small, the city can identify two properties that are available, owned by the city and viable choices for rehabilitation.

A collaboration between the city and the PBCIP, who are experienced in the rehabilitation of homes in the neighborhood, and local construction, electrical and other trade programs is a smart place to start. The role of the city is to identify properties, make sure the legal process to make sure properties are free of liens and ready for ownership, provide a two year tax abatement for the incoming owners and provide funding through grants. The role of the PBCIP is to oversee construction. To keep costs down, education programs that train individuals for the trades should be called upon for labor. All professions require practical experience, with close supervision from instructors this is a great way to provide low cost labor and practical hours to students.

The intended outcome of the project should transcend merely addressing housing needs. Inviting or strengthening the creative economy in the neighborhood not only sparks neighborhood revitalization, but creates and strengthens a market for secondary and tertiary markets related to the arts. Third places are created for people to exchange thoughts and ideas and begin to drive the local economy.


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At What Cost?: An Analysis of Housing Affordability in ...