City Council Report: Week of October 3rd, 2022

Council President Darrell Clarke presides over the October 6th Stated Meeting of City Council

Councilmember Curtis Jones introduced a resolution authorizing the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless to hold public hearings regarding the Brooklyn-based Nehemiah Program to determine if such a program could be implemented in Philadelphia.

The Nehemiah homes were built in the early 1980s in “burned out, rejected, and abandoned” neighborhoods in Brownsville and East New York by local citizens and churches with the idea of building affordable housing.

Originally, 16 square blocks were purchased for $1 to build affordable two and three-bedroom single-family homes that could be sold at “working class prices.”

According to the resolution, the Nehemiah Program has expanded nationwide and built over 6500 homes, creating $1.5 billion in wealth for first-time Black and Latino homeowners.

The Mayor’s Office released the Vision Zero annual report. The purpose of the Vision Zero project, which began in 2016, is to reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

New safety improvements include:

-High-visibility crosswalks with shorter crossing distances
-Two miles of new separated bike lane
-Updated line stripping and flex posts at intersections to slow traffic and clearly direct drivers
-New pavement surface
-In 2021, there were 121 traffic deaths on Philadelphia streets, making it the second-deadliest year for traffic crashes since 1999.

In 2021, Philadelphia saw 121 traffic-related deaths, the most since 1999. Philadelphia has one of the highest rate of traffic deaths in the country, at seven out of every 100,000 residents.

Other notes from the report:

-People walking are involved in 15% of crashes, but represent 38% of all deaths
-In 2021, aggressive driving was a factor in 43% of all fatal crashes
-Every year 4 children are killed in traffic crashes
-Every year 13 older adults are killed in traffic crashes when they are not driving
-From 2020-2021 traffic deaths increased for people biking, while decreasing for all other modes of transportation
-Black Philadelphians make up 41% of the city’s population, but account for 45% of the traffic deaths
-Hispanic Philadelphians make up 15% of the city’s population but account for 21% of the traffic deaths
-Rates of traffic deaths are 57% higher in the city’s poorest zip codes compared to the wealthiest zip codes

The committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless met Tuesday, October 4th, to hear testimony on Bill No. 220655, which would extend eviction diversion program protections until July of 2024, a further 18 months after the original sunsetting of the legislation.

The original legislation (Bill No. 200294), passed in 2020, called for mediation conferences between landlords and tenants if tenants had COVID-related issues affecting their ability to pay their rent.

In discussing the legislation at the beginning of the hearing, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said the program had been a monumental success and had been recreated in other cities.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, (Philadelphia) had the fourth highest eviction rate in the country, with one in fourteen renters facing eviction every year,” Gauthier said. “It is of the utmost importance that we recognize the positive effects the eviction diversion program and target rental assistance has on our residents.”

Gauthier said the program had helped 40,000 Philadelphia families remain in their homes.

The bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Helen Gym, said every eviction prevented is a day that’s more stable in a family’s life.

“(It’s) a child who isn’t suddenly disrupted from their schooling, a family that can stay home, and a chance for our city agencies to deliver on a mission that is the foundation of public safety.”

The bill was advanced from the committee with a favorable recommendation and will have its first reading in city council at the October 6th stated meeting.

On behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson introduced legislation authorizing the Procurement Commissioner to purchase electricity, natural gas, and motor fuel for use by city facilities and vehicles.

Previously, council had passed legislation authorizing the Procurement Commissioner to enter into agreements for energy purchases through 2025. This legislation will allow for purchasing at a fixed rate also to be made for 2026.

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