Phila. 'badlands' converted to affordable homes

February 1, 2011 3:29:32 PM PST
There is nothing like receiving the keys to your new home and the Women's Community Revitalization Project helped more than 30 families find that out first hand in North Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Marquitta Dessus allowed Action News to join her as she checked out her new digs.

"A backyard! I didn't have a backyard! It's snowy out there!" she said.

It will be the first time the mother of two will have a place to call her own.

"We needed our space. Me and my girls, now, we have a beautiful home, our space," Marquitta said.

"We have created a way of financing these deals where we put our own money in a developer's fee, it's a little complicated, and that pays the difference between what any family can afford and what it costs us to operate the units," said Nora Lichtasc, director of the Women's Revitalization Project.

The Philadelphia-based non-profit took what was once a drug infested and blighted area - known as 'The Badlands' near Percy and Indiana - and transformed it into four acres of affordable housing. There are 71 units in all in the Evelyn Sanders townhomes, but it's only a start.

Officials say some 57,000 more households need affording apartments like these. In just three weeks, 300 people applied to live in the Sanders complex. Berenstein Hill says she couldn't have felt luckier.

"Being almost a victim of somebody else's problem with foreclosure, as it affects all of us putting a roff over our head, I was walking on thin ice for four months," Hill said.

For a woman who is disabled with health problems and taking care of an 11-year-old adoptive daughter of her own, a handicap-accessible apartment was a dream come true.

"Within a month's time I'm going to be able to turn the key whenever I get the move-in truck to my own unit," said Hill.