The city’s “hottest” housing market is just blocks off Penn’s campus — and this market heat-up has a lot to do with Penn itself.
Redfin Real Estate forecasts that Spruce Hill will be the most desirable neighborhood in Philadelphia this year. The district, which extends west from 40th Street to 46th Street and north from Woodland Avenue to Market Street, has in recent years been characterized by low homeownership rates. However, the past year has seen demand for long-term residences rise, with the median home sale price climbing to . Redfin lists this value, which is $315,000 higher than the city median, as an indicator of real-estate development.
Redfin realtor Jimmy Caraway attributes much of Spruce Hill’s recent growth to Penn. He reports that recently staff and graduate students have been purchasing homes in Spruce Hill to live closer to their jobs at the University and the hospitals. Meanwhile, the University itself has accelerated this trend through Penn Home Ownership Services, which incentivizes faculty and staff to purchase and renovate homes in West Philadelphia.
Seeking to “foster the University’s commitment to neighborhood development,” PHOS offers and only in certain West Philadelphia regions.
PHOS Manager Nicole Andrews and Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger say the forgivable loan and CCR programs exemplify how Penn has reached out to communities like Spruce Hill in the last decade.
“From the late ‘90s to 2004 ... there was a comprehensive initiative involving safety, lighting, home ownership, retail, education.” Kruger said.
“And [PHOS was] part of that larger program to ingratiate the area,” Andrews added.
Of Penn’s contributions to Spruce Hill, perhaps the most impactful has been the Penn Alexander School.
Penn Alexander is a K-8 public school for children in West Philadelphia. The University subsidizes Penn Alexander with $1,330 per student and provides student teachers from the Graduate School of Education to maintain optimal class sizes and a high-quality curriculum. Since it fully opened in 2004, it has been rated as among the best in Philadelphia.
Spruce Hill Zoning Director Barry Grossbach believes Penn Alexander has had a tremendous impact on his district’s home ownership. He observes that Spruce Hill is now an area people live in to take advantage of affordable, Penn-sponsored education.
“[Spruce Hill] became a destination of choice for a lot of people, particularly families, who were either expecting to have children or had kids of school age,” Grossbach said. “The area itself received a jolt of adrenaline as a result of the creation of the school ... [and] so Spruce Hill became a hot market for property purchase.”
Grossbach is also grateful for Penn’s overall contributions to his district.
“They saw it was in their best interest to help the community stabilize ... and so they worked with the community to go through a Spruce Hill plan.” Grossbach said. “It created a more favorable market for people to consider Spruce Hill as a desirable place to live.”