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Mixed income neighborhoods have long been a tenant of good urbanism. In general they bring stability to a neighborhood and give lower income groups access to many benefits they would not otherwise have. Even more generally, mixed income neighborhoods promote a social equity as members of different social classes live side by side.

I know what you’re thinking, “that’s exactly the kind of world I want to live in, please tell me more about this paradise”.

Well I’d be delighted. With our recent launch of Awesometown, which has 4 moderate income units, we’ve been brushing up on the in’s and out’s of how the range of income levels can affect a neighborhood.

Higher income neighborhoods pay higher taxes on their property and income. They’re able to create the market demand and political pressure that leads to better goods and services for all the residents. It is in these neighborhoods that new retail businesses, quality restaurants and organic markets prefer to open. These business draw in more people from the surrounding areas and help bring in outside money. Also, the higher the income, the more people own their home, which means they are more likely to make repairs and keep it looking snazzy.

New Businesses, Well Kept Homes, Snazzy Look.

So what does a low income neighborhood look like? Well a lot less snazzy. Many people do not own their home which means less incentive to maintain it or the surrounding neighborhood. Businesses in these neighborhoods are generally forced to rely on a low margin, high volume model since there is little money to spare. It’s rare that people from other neighborhoods will travel to make use of these businesses so very little outside money comes in. This is the general atmosphere until the neighborhood reaches a tipping point and residents begin to leave. Suddenly homes are vacant and begin to fall down. Squatters take up residence and crime rates and drug use increase.

The residents that left  are typically the ones that can afford to live in a higher income area. Over time this split increases and the high income neighborhood gets nicer while the low income neighborhood declines.  Another trend is that as a neighborhood gets nicer low and even moderate income residents get priced out. This is the negative side of gentrification. More on that later.

One of the best ways to prevent these trends is with mixed income neighborhoods. In a mixed income neighborhood higher income families support amenities like good schools, clean parks and organic grocery markets. The low or moderate income residents can then take advantage of these. Although most of the benefits are hard to measure there have been several studies which have interviewed residents of these communities about their move to the new mixed income neighborhood and how they felt about that decision years later, one by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and another by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

What these studies show is that when low income residents move to a high income neighborhood job prospects increased and overall wage increased. It makes sense because, as these residents gain contacts other than their contemporary low income neighbors they have a greater ability to network into a better position. It also helps that they are now in walking distance of  those higher profit margin, organic, quality retail shops which may offer better employment than they previously had.

A lot of the benefits have to do with a mixed income neighborhood acting as the enforcer of a unspoken social code. The low income families may feel more pressure to keep up their home and fit in with the social conventions of their now peers. There is the effect of a watering down of the extremes on either side of the social spectrum. This gives kids the advantage of multiple role models from a cross section of society.

The most commonly cited benefit by low income residents was reduced stress and an increased sense of safety. Many also reported feeling more motivated citing their move as an accomplishment which they saw as a sign of progress in their lives. You can’t really measure feelings but it’s looking like mixed income neighborhoods can do some good for at least those on the low end.

But that’s no surprise right? Of course moving to a better neighborhood would have a positive effect on your life. So what possible benefit could it have for higher income residents? …Besides an awareness of the hardships of another social class. Well the tangible benefit is increased urban stability. As one neighborhood declines that blight begins to spread and pockets of crime develop. The city spends more money just to keep neighborhoods safe and there is less left over to incentivize new businesses or maintain public infrastructure. Even though the high income neighborhood does not fall the city as a whole declines. Conversely, if a city is able to achieve stability for a long time it can attract more business and set up better public transit and infrastructural systems.

Mixed income housing is useful for preventing pockets of blight when a city falls into an economic decline but the time to implement mixed income housing is when a city is doing well. During boom times of the city housing market gentrification spreads out from the well established zones and begin to redevelop some previously impoverished areas. The greatest part of gentrification is that it brings new money and new construction to an area that could use it, but if there is not a place for low and moderate income families they may get priced out of their own neighborhood and forced to find a home in the still struggling, un-gentrified areas. That is the negative of gentrification, that it can replace a community instead of adding to one. High crime areas don’t get fixed, they just get moved. In this case social classes don’t mix and neighborhoods don’t build that stability which would help the whole city weather the bust times.

With all of this information about mixed income housing turning over in our heads as we met with the NKCDC (New Kensington Community Development Corporation) in preparation for the Awesometown project, it was abundantly clear that the development trend of the Kensington/Fishtown is toward rampant gentrification. We love the new bars and restaurants that are popping up, maybe more than we should, but it’s important that the changes going on produce a long term stability for Kensington/Fishtown otherwise it could fall into disrepair again in the future. We were all in agreement that Awesometown would make a bigger positive impact on Philadelphia as a whole if some units could be marketed toward moderate income families.

There are a number of ways to do this and in many cases in a project like Awesometown, public funds would be used to subsidize the low or moderate income units. Jane Jacobs had a lot to say about subsidized housing, how it works and how it doesn’t work, but her main trouble with it was that it kept people reliant on subsidies and didn’t offer them a tool toward greater social mobility. Fortunately Awesometown is not subsidized housing. No public funds will be used to cover the cost of the moderate income homes. These homes are financed privately from the sales of this project itself.  To keep it fair there is a lottery system for anyone interested. We knew that the Postgreen homes model already had some built in tools to help with social mobility, like lower utility bills, optional upgrade packages, and a smaller home size. With guidance from the NKCDC we were able to tackle the financing of moderate income units and get a project underway that will bring the appropriate mixture of incomes to the neighborhood.

Ultimately we are Postgreen homes. Green is in the name, it’s what we do. We’re for sustainable everything. But what could be more sustainable than a stable neighborhood with homes that are built for people to purchase and live in for years to come. Build them once and be done with it. Good urban planning is one very fundamental part of sustainability and its one we’re considering heavily in all of our projects.

 

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Sponsored by: Postgreen Homes – Trophy Bikes – Bicycle Stable – Philadelphia Bike Rescue

May 2nd, 2032-2034 Frankford Ave

You may have noticed a few empty lots along Frankford Ave near Susquehanna with a fence that blows down every other day… we’re sorry about that. Those fences are shielding the construction of two homes along Blair street. We feel bad about our temporary unsightliness and would like to make it up to you. How does an evening of free bike tune ups and some fine art sound? Come by and have a drink on us while you’re at it.

Once we saw the May First Friday was coming up and realized these homes right off Frankford would be near completion, we figured we should do something to get in on the action. Here at Postgreen we’ve been doing a lot of research on how to increase bike ridership in the city, whether it be through bike repair stations or more pedestrian friendly streets. So we thought this empty space could be a good opportunity to get in contact with some local bike organizations and see what they could do to make a difference in Philadelphia’s bike culture in just a few hours.

Trophy Bikes, Bicycle Stable and Philadelphia Bike Rescue jumped at the chance to sponsor a bike themed First Friday event and began brainstorming event ideas. The result was a temporary bike tune up station with free repairs and bike maintenance advice. With the warm weather looking like it’s here to stay it’s really the perfect time to get your bike in tip top shape.

Offering bike tune ups is a great idea but Trophy Bikes, Bicycle Stable and Philadelphia Bike agreed we could do more. This is First Friday after all, and with the bare walls and furniture-less rooms in our homes we’ve basically got the perfect gallery space.  So we reached out to a few local artists who loved the bike theme and were happy for the venue to show their work.

Some free bike tune ups, fine art and drinks on us… sounds like a good Friday night to me. Where else can you get all that in one spot? Only on First Friday, and only on this First Friday. Some come check out some Postgreen homes, bring your old bike and hob knob with the artists. Still need convincing? Visit the Postgreen Homes Facebook Page for more details and to RSVP.

 

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Awesometown, a name conceived in the glorious chaos of the early days of Postgreen Homes. Born of the levity that lives beneath stress and exhaustion, the name Awesometown was a placeholder at first, a goofy non de plume for a project whose official moniker formed too slowly. We had a website to launch, a party to throw, and this amazing development needed a name . . . at least for a night.

Of course, the name stuck, and how could it not. After all, this was our biggest, most ambitious project to date. It was an amazing example of a partnership between public and private entities, between New Kensington Community Development Corp (NKCDC) and Postgreen Homes. It featured an incredible new model, inspiring features, architectural magic and a community-driven mission. It was, in so many ways, awesome, and who doesn’t want to live in Awesometown.

Is the name a trifle silly? Yes, but so are we. We take what we do very seriously but ourselves . . . not so much. Awesometown is blunt hyperbole, aggressive absurdity. It elicits chuckles and head shakes. It is bold enough to feel innocent and childish enough to remind us that our work is, in the sometimes tragic theatre of life, only so important.

It is also memorable. In a landscape of safe project names and the flat sameness of focus group, committee-dubbed developments, Awesometown is a surprise. It is a spark of grinning foolishness in a buttoned-up business. And so are we, I hope.

Worse than the name, if you find such things offensive, are the videos we made. Low budget escapes from fisheye lenses and the dry-extolling of feature virtues. Shameless examples of our strange little minds. Working with The Nectar of the Gods, a production team specializing in the grossly goofy, we made three of these short commercials. This is the first.

If you want to know more about the real details behind this odd name and it’s odder marketing devices, you can find everything you need here. And, if you want to live in Awesometown, you can customize your new home right now. Just remember, while the homes are truly incredible places to live, the claims of our videos are as ridiculous as the name itself.

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Awesometown Sales Kickoff Happy Hour

March 10, 2014

Some of you old timers may remember a project by the name of “Awesometown.” The only project named before we made it to our customary Memphis Taproom project naming sessions. At the end of this session, we scrapped all beer induced ideas after failing to come up with any rational arguments against “who wouldn’t want [...]

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New Sonos Wireless Home Theater Surround Sound Options

March 3, 2014

Late last year the Postgreen Homes team was sitting about, informally discussing options for our homes as we tend to do quite often. The focus of this discussion was around the best home audio option for the widest audience of our potential home buyers. While there are a decent number of our buyers that like [...]

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Visualizing LEED for Homes – Update 3

February 17, 2014

reNewbold LEED for Homes Point Total – 47 LEED Points to Go – 38 The last LEED update post included everything that had been done pre-construction. This update is what happens for LEED on day one of construction up to rough framing. Although we’ve had an Arctic like winter construction has pushed foward and we’ve [...]

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New Wall Light Fixture Options – Made in USA

February 12, 2014
Thumbnail image for New Wall Light Fixture Options – Made in USA
http://vimeo.com/moogaloo

Recently we installed 40′ of whiteboard in the new office. One result is the pouring out of many project ideas that have been patiently waiting in the folds of our brains in the form of colorful lists on fresh melamine. We put much faith in the magical powers of lists on boards that are white [...]

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