Critics say Point Breeze affordable housing plan is a 'land grab'

Posted: November 30, 2012

CITY COUNCIL approved a controversial plan Thursday to allow the Redevelopment Authority to take 17 privately owned properties by eminent domain to build affordable housing in Point Breeze.

Developers dubbed the plan, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on behalf of the Nutter administration, a "land grab."

City and community groups argue the proposal is necessary to maintain affordable housing in an area rife with development that has caused longtime residents to worry that gentrification will increase the cost of living.

"The city has not figured out a way to maintain or build on the thousands of lots it already owns and yet you want to take more," said developer Ori Feibush, who made national headlines recently for a fight with the city over a vacant lot.

Five of Feibush's properties had been on the list but were removed, Johnson said.

Johnson said that developers who came forward were able to have their properties taken off. The number of properties set to be condemned dropped from 43 to 28 and includes 11 owned by the city and 17 by private owners, a majority of which are tax delinquent.

The bill passed 14-0. Council members Bill Green, Brian O'Neill and Marian Tasco were absent.

*  In other news: Council transferred money to various city departments and programs after the city ended the 2012 fiscal year with $49 million more than expected.

Council and the Nutter administration agreed to restore some items that were cut during the budget process in the spring.

Among the changes: Parks and Recreation will receive $2.7 million toward facility maintenance, the managing director's office will get nearly $2 million (including money for neighborhood cleanup by the CLIP program), and the Streets Department will get $2.6 million, mostly for snow removal.

* Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill that would increase the hospitality tax from 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent to generate $2 million to be split between the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. The money would replace funding lost after state cuts.

* Next Thursday, Johnson and Councilman Jim Kenney will introduce a resolution calling for a hearing on U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's casino idea in which the city would get a portion of the profits from a second casino.

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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