Program that helps seniors keep their homes expands to gentrifying neighborhoods

Pat Loeb
August 08, 2019 - 3:16 pm
Community Legal Services

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A program designed to keep older Philadelphians in their homes will expand to more of the city's gentrifying neighborhoods, with the help of state funding for Community Legal Services (CLS). 

State legislators presented a giant check to CLS attorney Dawn Williams Thursday, representing the $300,000 in additional funds for its senior housing program. 

The program launched last year with $500,000. Williams said it helped save 300 homes in the program's first six months.

Before the program, about 600 seniors a month faced foreclosure.

"Homes are the key to seniors' health, comfort and well-being, and for many of our seniors in Philadelphia, their home is the one thing they can leave as a legacy to the next generation," Williams said.

The program helps seniors navigate the city's tax payment plan for long-time homeowners, whose property values — and as a result, their tax bills — rise as their neighborhoods attract newer, younger residents. 

City Council President Darrell Clarke is proud of the program. The most vulnerable seniors can receive more forgiving tax payment plans, some as low as $0 a month. 

CLS initially worked with seniors in Point Breeze, Grays Ferry, Sharswood and Strawberry Mansion. Now, it's expanding into Kingsessing, Cobbs Creek and Mantua. 

But Clarke admitted it takes outside help for many seniors to understand.

"With tangled title and all the other challenges the senior citizen population meet, they are not in a position to apply until they get the assistance of CLS," he said.