Mayoral Voters Guide for Housing and Homelessness Solutions, 2023
We asked Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates to provide a 250-word response to the question below. Their responses below have not been edited beyond being limited to the requested 250-word limit. Responses are listed alphabetically by candidate surname. A digital version of the full guide may be found here. Hard copies may be picked up at 1515 Fairmount Avenue - stop by anytime to pick them up!
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As Mayor, what is your plan to end and prevent homelessness in Philadelphia?
Project HOME asked Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates to provide a 250-word response to the question above. Their responses on the following pages have not been edited beyond being limited to the requested 250-word limit. Responses are listed alphabetically by candidate surname.
Amen Brown • Jeff Brown • James DeLeon • Allen Domb • Derek Green • Helen Gym • David Oh • Cherelle Parker • Maria Quiñones Sánchez • Rebecca Rhynhart
In order to address homelessness, it is going to take a coordinated approach that involves community input and collaboration in order to determine how to best use resources and provide services and support. My team will analyze programming and policy efforts from other cities to determine approaches that can be adopted and adjusted as needed to fit Philadelphia, ensuring that there will be metrics to track progress and for accountability.
The Amen Brown administration will:
- Establish and maintain relationships with public, private and nonprofit/community groups for integrated collaboration.
- Evaluate systems and processes to reduce barriers to development, e.g., supporting efforts to reform zoning, implementing one-stop permit shops and developing City-owned properties for affordable housing.
- Grow efforts to provide supportive housing to ensure that systemic issues are addressed as well in order to build skills that allow for individual sustainment, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations.
- Continue the investment in the rapid rehousing program, identifying ways for expansion.
- Ensure that programming offers accessible job pathways, as well as appropriate training, to increase income and achieve financial stability.
- Work with the needed departments and players to reduce wait time for housing placement.
As the city grows, it is inevitable for development to take place, but we have to make sure communities are not displaced in the process.
I saw this firsthand as a PA Convention Center Authority board member. Around 80 homeless people were living in the tunnels of the Convention Center, and we were spending over a million dollars a year to clean up after them. To me, this seemed like an antiquated and inhuman way of dealing with the problem. Looking for a solution, the authority worked with a team of social workers who met with the people living in the tunnels to understand their needs and get them into temporary housing. Our efforts were successful, and after several months we got everyone into temporary housing and later treatment at the cost of around $500,000.
One of the things I learned during this time was that temporary housing for the homeless is no longer divided between violent and nonviolent people as it was in the past. This has left nonviolent homeless people resistant to living in temporary housing because they often find living on the street safer. As mayor, I will reinstate the differentiation between violent and nonviolent housing so more people find temporary housing viable. My administration will also use social workers, rather than police officers, to get homeless people off the streets and meet their needs.
For homeless people dealing with addiction, as with all people dealing with addiction, we need to change our perspective and approach. We must view addiction as a disease and a mental health issue, increasing access to drug courts and treatment.
As mayor, my plan to end and prevent homelessness would consist of the following guidelines:
- Creating and preserving dedicated, affordable housing units.
- Promoting affordability by aligning supply with the market and neighborhood housing conditions.
- Helping households gain access to affordable private-market houses.
- Protecting against displacement and poor housing conditions.
- Creating and funding public accessibility to resources, such as mental health and drug counseling, job training, employment opportunities, financial management and education and permanent housing.
The above-referenced policies would be used in combination with the Shared Public Space Program; said program would be the coordinating vehicle for implementation of these objectives.
I intend to achieve the goal of eradicating homelessness in Philadelphia understanding that homelessness is a temporary state for most people who are given access to necessary societal and physical resources, such as mental health and drug counseling, job training, employment opportunities, financial education and permanent shelter. My administration will ensure that these resources are established and accessible for anyone experiencing homelessness with the goal to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring in Philadelphia.
As someone whose family was evicted when I was a child, I know what housing insecurity feels like and the deep impact it has on a family. I believe housing is a basic right, and the number of people living unhoused or in overcrowded housing in Philadelphia is a multilevel policy failure.
My administration will work with the federal and state leaders, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, community leaders, advocates and the private sector to expand the amount of affordable, safe housing available and provide wraparound services to those who need it.
For anyone unable to care for or otherwise provide for themselves, regardless of the reason, we have an absolute moral obligation to help them. As mayor, I will dramatically expand the number of housing units available to the people in the most need.
I will also move to help those who are temporarily in need, whether due to job loss, mental health, or addiction, so they do not end up in a cycle of being unhoused, with all the damage and lingering impact that has. As mayor, I will increase the number of housing units available on a short to immediate term.
Finally, because housing becomes more affordable when people make more money, I will work to increase the number of people working at good jobs. Our goal should be to increase homeownership, as it is one of the best ways to create generational wealth and protect against the threat of becoming unhoused.
Philadelphia has a housing crisis. From 2000 to 2012, Philadelphia suffered the second largest drop in homeownership rates among the nation’s 30 largest cities. During my time as a deputy city solicitor representing the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development, I saw this drop firsthand. Predatory lending was ravaging our communities, causing significant foreclosures in our neighborhoods, robbing citizens of the equity in their homes and increasing poverty in our city.
As mayor, I will address homelessness through immediate action and long-term preventative solutions. In the short term, we must support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. This means convening with all stakeholders in City government and relevant nonprofits to assess and deliver funding and other resources.
In the long term, I will implement preventative measures to support our homeless neighbors.
That starts with keeping families in their homes. I co-authored the Philadelphia Anti-Predatory Lending Ordinance, which led to City Council’s creation of the Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program, which has saved more than 11,000 homes from foreclosure. I also passed legislation that amended the Home Rule Charter to annually allocate funding to the Housing Trust Fund. A city’s budget conveys its priorities, and I made it clear that our City prioritizes safe and affordable housing for its residents.
Finally, homelessness is a symptom of deeper issues. Poverty is a problem that impacts various issues in our city. By increasing access to good-paying jobs, we will collectively lift up our communities and reduce the poverty that leads our neighbors into homelessness.
As mayor, I will implement a housing-first approach to curb homelessness and address the housing crisis. Research and lived experience shows that the best way to prevent homelessness is to guarantee access to affordable, long-term housing. Permanency is key. City government must take proactive steps to protect existing affordable housing and encourage the development of new affordable units to meet our current and future needs. To that end, I will push to expand the Housing Trust Fund, provide shallow rent subsidies, increase accessible no-barrier housing options, strengthen protections for renters and conduct greater outreach for government programs with an emphasis on youth and families.
My housing agenda will prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable residents: poor and working-class families, people struggling with substance use disorder, youth, seniors and the LGBTQ+ community. Advocating for renters and housing insecure residents has always been a priority of mine. During the pandemic, I created a nationally recognized eviction diversion program that kept thousands of Philadelphia families in their homes and slashed evictions by more than two-thirds. Additionally, I championed local rent subsidies in the City’s housing plans for the first time ever, which are among the most cost-effective ways to expand affordable housing. I also successfully advocated for the first budget line item for addressing LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.
I am running on the belief that housing is a human right. I will take a bold approach to address our housing affordability crisis with urgency and work tirelessly to end homelessness throughout our city.
As a Councilmember, I introduced a bill to provide the Housing Trust Fund that receives $17 million a year with an additional $50 million a year from the General Fund to jump start a serious and viable effort to build new, intelligent affordable housing. My bill was defeated. Therefore, I was not able to advance to the next step, which is to make changes to the Housing Trust Fund and focus on building affordable housing where needed, in low income neighborhoods. As Mayor, I would provide a plan to rehabilitate existing housing and build new housing in the communities where most needed.
Leveraging state/federal resources for development of affordable housing is a key strategy. Partnerships with landlords and developers on a local level are needed. Developers need to be accountable to provide affordable housing set-asides if they accept public money for market rate housing, The Department of Behavioral Health must prioritize the development of affordable housing. The Department needs to ensure there is adequate funding from the State for housing for individuals with serious mental illness and substance use issues.
Collaboration between Office of Homeless Services, Department of Behavioral and Community Behavioral Health must be is expanded and prioritized relative to the need for permanent housing for those who want to be in a recovery community that it is supported with flexible resources. Department of Human Services needs to pledge additional resources to assist young adults exiting their care and custody to ensure they have stable housing and supportive services.
Homelessness in Philadelphia needs to be truly addressed as an issue of compassion, health, quality of life and public safety.
First and foremost, as mayor, I will lift up and ensure proper funding for organizations like Project HOME that are doing the yeoman’s work of combatting homelessness in Philadelphia.
However, to truly end homelessness, we need to have a very real assessment of the current support systems that people living on the streets either temporarily or permanently pass through. Almost all of these people have passed through several public and nonprofit organizations tasked with providing a variety of outreach housing, treatment and wraparound services. But for some, this is just not enough.
We also need to improve our data and means of collection, as recent reports indicate we may be vastly undercounting the number of young adults, ages 18–24, who are experiencing bouts of homelessness. I will look to increase our investment and help modernize the Office of Homeless Services, which allocates funding for homeless outreach and services, in addition to providing services directly.
I will be proposing a comprehensive approach, leaning on my intergovernmental experience, to bring together local, state and regional resources to create a state-of-the-art in-patient facility to provide treatment that so many of these unhoused people need (whether it is mental and behavioral health, addiction treatment or a combination of these).
This will not be easy and will require skilled mental health professionals working around the clock to sweep our streets and respond to 911 calls, especially when someone is posing a threat to themselves or others.
Maria Quiñones Sánchez
In my administration, every City department will have a public safety plan, an anti-poverty plan and an economic opportunity and inclusion plan. Using zero-based budgeting we will invest millions in community infrastructure and affordable housing. We will end policies that destabilize families and criminalize poverty, and will realign Philadelphia’s multi-billion dollar human services and welfare budgets. This work is complex, but there’s nothing wrong with Philly that we can’t fix together.
The backbone of our anti-poverty agenda will be “The Promise” — our public-private partnership with United Way created as a result of my work chairing City Council’s Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention. With the funding I secured in 2020, The Promise has already helped thousands of Philadelphians access their benefits and receive assistance with expungement.
As mayor I will expand programs that keep people in their homes, including direct rental assistance, foreclosure and eviction prevention and income-based payment plans. As councilmember, I leveraged more public land for affordable housing than any other councilmember and created most of the tools in our affordable housing toolbox. As mayor I will scale up successful models for housing preservation and mixed-income development.
I understand more than any other candidate the complex intersection of homelessness, substance use and Philadelphia’s ongoing public health and safety crisis. As mayor I will fully fund the Restore Kensington plan, remove barriers to treatment, support family reunification, pursue innovative models for recovery housing and make restorative investments to stabilize poor and working-class communities.
Every single one of us deserves the dignity of a roof over our heads. Homelessness is a serious issue throughout our city. To address this crisis, we need to both reach our residents who are unhoused where they are with outreach workers and increase access to supportive housing with wraparound services. I will lead this effort as mayor.
Increasing affordable housing in Philadelphia is key to solving homelessness. As mayor, I will create a citywide housing plan working with City Council so that there is affordable housing in every neighborhood. We have a unique opportunity to utilize the 8,500 City-owned vacant properties and lots to build affordable housing.
Additionally, we must help residents stay in their homes in areas where property taxes are increasing significantly because of development and gentrification. As mayor, I will deploy outreach workers to enroll homeowners in the Senior Tax Freeze and Long Term Owner Occupants Program (LOOP), two existing city programs that many residents are not aware of. We also must continue to support home repair programs and make sure people in our city are protected against unjust eviction.
All candidates who formally entered the mayoral race before 2/24/23 when we began our outreach to campaigns and responded to outreach by 3/10/23
have been included in this guide. The following candidates will also be on the 5/16/23 primary election ballot:
- Warren Bloom (Democrat):
- Delscia Gray (Democrat):
- no campaign website or contact information
- John Wood (Democrat):
Additional Election Information
Important dates for the 2023 elections
- 5/1 Last day to register to vote before Primary Election: projecthome.org/register
- 5/9 Last day to apply for mail-in/absentee before Primary Election: vote.pa.gov/applymailballot
- 5/16 Primary Election Day polls are open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m. Mail-in ballots due to Board of Elections by 8 p.m.
- 10/23 Last day to register to vote before General Election
- 10/31 Last day to apply for mail-in/absentee before General Election
- 11/7 General Election Day polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mail-in ballots due to Board of Elections by 8 p.m.
Primary election open seats
- City Council
- Register of Wills
- City Commissioners
- Court of Common Pleas
- Municipal Courts
- Justice of the Supreme Court
- Judge of the Superior Court
- Judge of the Commonwealth Court
The Project HOME Voters Guide is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, Visit everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.