I’m a real estate developer who supports affordable housing — and paying my fair share | Opinion

As a real estate developer, I believe in helping residents build wealth in their own communities. This has been a defining principle in my career.

To that end, I founded Jumpstart Germantown and Jumpstart Philly six years ago to create opportunities for local residents to invest in and improve their own neighborhoods, reducing blight, raising property values, and increasing the city’s tax base along the way. I am also a member of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Philadelphia, the local affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The BIA advocates for inclusiveness and understands that we, as developers/landlords/builders, have a responsibility to the city and neighborhoods in which we operate.

I understand that not all developers take such an inclusive approach to building wealth in our community. Take, for instance, the national NAHB, which I believe represents the worst in our industry.

In a recent email to its members, NAHB asked us to actively oppose President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. They are pushing the false narrative that any proposal that raises taxes on the wealthy or increases the national debt will hurt the economy. I strongly disagree.

“Greed that puts profit over people represents the worst in our industry.”

Ken Weinstein

I agree with NAHB that developers should not be directly responsible for providing affordable housing. But society has a responsibility to provide affordable housing, and to that end, developers and other wealthy individuals should be required to pay more in taxes so that the government can offer additional housing vouchers, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and other forms of housing assistance.

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We cannot have it both ways by opposing both requirements on developers and funding for affordable housing programs administered by the government. And we can’t close our eyes to the societal problems caused by poverty and the serious lack of affordable housing.

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Biden’s proposal will provide $213 billion for building, renovating, and retrofitting more than two million homes. Providing affordable housing for all is essential, a goal that developers should willingly contribute to by speaking out and opening their wallets. The bill will also improve roads, bridges, and public transit, which our tenants and employees use daily. The NAHB position on the infrastructure bill is shortsighted for American businesses.

Part of Biden’s plan seeks to pass the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA), which offers $20 billion in tax credits to developers and investors over five years to build or rehabilitate 500,000 homes. This initiative will lead to opportunities in affordable housing and residential real estate investing.

As a real estate developer in Philadelphia’s middle neighborhoods, I am well aware of the inequities in housing. The pandemic only helped to exacerbate the gap between current rents and what people can afford.

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There are no easy fixes. I am working to change the culture of my industry alongside many brilliant, thoughtful, and caring colleagues. But everyone concerned about housing should be vocally supporting this infrastructure package. Across the board, industry-led initiatives to oppose taxes harm the communities in which we live, work, and invest. Greed that puts profit over people represents the worst in our industry.

As developers/landlords/builders, we cannot close our eyes to the societal problems caused by poverty and a critical lack of affordable housing. We profit off of housing rentals and commercial leases. We cannot say the profits we create should not be sufficiently taxed so the government can provide sufficient affordable housing. We alone cannot fix all of the issues that contribute to housing instability, but I am happy to pay my fair share, and so should our entire industry.

Ken Weinstein is president of Philly Office Retail and founder of Jumpstart Germantown/Jumpstart Philly. ken@phillyofficeretail.com

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