Tiny houses coming to Philly-owned land

Ryan Heenan
Ryan Heenan
Published on November 29, 2018

Philadelphia is on track to begin construction of prefabricated tiny houses in Kensington, a new strategy for the city that advocates say could dramatically improve the region’s ability to respond to a growing shortage of decent, low-cost housing. If the plan comes to fruition, it will be the Philadelphia debut of a housing type that has captured the imagination of everyone from reality TV producers to minimalist architects and advocates seeking to end homelessness.

With support from two city council members, a team of advocates led by Villanova University professor Stephanie Sena plans to construct a model unit on a 700 square-foot city-owned parcel of land at 2147 Orleans Street in Greater Kensington. A $75,000 no-interest loan to a nonprofit led by Sena, Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia, is paying for the pre-fab home. The loan will come from the personal bank account of Councilman Allan Domb. Councilman Domb “sees our work as an answer to rising housing prices,” said Sena, who teaches history. “We’ve applied for many grants and had a lot of success, but there are many corporations and funders that tell us they need to see a model first. This one property on Orleans Street will be the model we can use to get the funding we need to get more properties.”

A lot on Orleans Street in Kensington will be the site of a prototype of a new kind of small prefab rowhouse. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The City Council’s Vacant Property Review Committee approved the parcel’s transfer from the Philadelphia Land Bank to Sena’s group. Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a resolution in City Council to approve the transfer. To complete the process, Squilla’s resolution will have to be voted on and then, assuming the legislation moves forward, the Land Bank’s executive board will give final sign off at their December meeting, transferring the title from the city to the nonprofit. “To take people out of homelessness we need to put them into affordable housing, and I thought this was a better solution than spending $418,000 on an affordable home,” said Domb, who also owns one of the city’s top real estate brokerages.

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Source: PlanPhilly; 11/21/2018

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