“It’s all just hard work at the core”: WCRP’s Mamie Nichols Townhomes Break Ground on Thirty-Three Rental Units

artist rendering of new houses for the Mamie Nichols project

Community organizer Mamie Nichols’ daughter spoke these words, “it’s all just hard work at the core”, in tribute to her mother at the groundbreaking of the affordable townhomes development in Point Breeze that bears her name. The new homes are in the second phase of development starting this fall.

Ms. Nichols was an important part of the Point Breeze community, a neighborhood south of Washington Avenue in Philadelphia. She foresaw the coming gentrification of the area and worked to bring more resources to the historic commercial corridor where redevelopment continues to conflict with the community.

Given the changing demographics in South Philadelphia, long-time residents are finding it harder to stay in neighborhoods where they grew up. Thanks to mechanisms such as Community Land Trusts (CLTs), there are ways to maintain affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying areas. CLTs are a mechanism in which a legal entity, typically a nonprofit owns the land, and the residents own the homes on that land.

In the case of the Mamie Nichols Townhomes, the CLT has a 99-year renewable lease. RHLS has been setting up CLTs as part of its mission to construct and maintain affordable housing. The Mamie Nichols Townhomes are being developed by the Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP). RHLS staff attorney Joseph Jampel headed the project and worked with Deputy Director and Senior Attorney for Multi-Family Housing, Dina Schlossberg, as well as consultant Ryanne Shuey. They have been providing legal representation to WCRP in the development and financing of the project.

The development includes thirty-three units of rental housing. The complex will include two units for residents with mobility-related disabilities and one unit for residents with vision and/or hearing-related disabilities. The development has studio to three-bedroom apartments and townhomes. Twenty-two of the homes will be set aside for families, while the other eleven will be for veterans and people with special needs. WCRP, in partnership with Citizens Acting Together Can Help (CATCH), will provide supportive services to the townhomes’ residents.

An earlier phase of the project, comprising the development of five permanent affordable homeownership units, is almost complete. RHLS attorneys Justin Hollinger and Judy Berkman represented WCRP in that phase of development.

The construction was financed using Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).  The 33 rental townhomes and apartments, offering monthly rents ranging from $153 to $800, plus utilities, are intended for families earning less than $50,000 a year and veterans with disabilities as part of the second phase of construction. They are slated to be completed by December 2021.