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Community Preservation in Latino Eastern North Philadelphia

In partnership with Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program and Esperanza

April 5, 2024

Sembrando Sueños, Cosechando Esperanzas © 2017, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Patricia Barrera. Esperanza Academy Charter School, 301 West Hunting Park Avenue. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Eastern North Philadelphia encompasses a little over five square miles, and includes the neighborhoods of Hunting Park, Juniata Park, Feltonville, Upper Kensington, Fairhill, McGuire, and others. It is home to much of Philadelphia's Latino population, including many Puerto Rican households, who make up the majority of the Latinos in Philadelphia. These neighborhoods are served by Nueva Esperanza, Inc. ("Esperanza") a faith-based nonprofit with its own community development corporation, operating in the area for almost 40 years.

Figure 1: Neighborhoods in Eastern North Philadelphia 

Esperanza has partnered with the Nowak Metro Finance Lab, Aspen Institute Latinos & Society, and Reinvestment Fund to understand how Eastern North Philadelphia can remain a cohesive stronghold for the Latino community while channeling community-oriented investment. This report showcases three key initiatives that Esperanza is in the process of developing to protect vulnerable residents from potential displacement. Additionally, the report provides Esperanza with a Community Preservation Toolkit, which identifies a set of strategies that Esperanza can implement, programs that should be implemented or expanded within the City of Philadelphia, and policies that are needed from the state and city to prevent displacement and encourage economic well-being. These strategies, programs, and policies are meant to serve as a comprehensive suite of activities that can help Latino residents and local cultural businesses remain in place.

The report begins with a diagnostic of current conditions in the study area, conducted to ground the Community Preservation Toolkit in the needs of the Eastern North Philadelphia community at this moment. This includes a displacement risk assessment meant to account for displacement risk from both gentrification and disinvestment. We analyze changes in rent and housing prices in the study area, relative to the rest of the city and in absolute terms. We additionally conduct an economic market analysis of the commercial corridor stock, examining the current state of the business landscape in four commercial corridors.

The report then presents three key initiatives for community preservation and economic opportunity. First, as Esperanza begins to engage more with the housing landscape, they are developing a promising new model for creating and maintaining low-income rental units—the Stable Affordable Rental Housing Trust (START) model. This model aims to provide permanently affordable low-income rental housing, paired with wealth-building opportunities. It is a core strategy for community preservation in the study area and will be implemented by Esperanza in the coming years. Second, a Commercial Corridor Trust (CCT) would aim to do for small businesses what START aims to do for residents: create permanently affordable retail space in key commercial corridors. To address cultural and local business displacement, we additionally highlight our policy recommendation for the creation of a Community Preservation District Program. This recommendation builds off examples from other cities and states exploring how new forms of preservation legislation can ensure a viable economic market for locally owned businesses and their customers. The report concludes by outlining specific policies, programs, and strategies that can and must be implemented by Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Esperanza to make the START, the CCT, and Community Preservation Districts a success.