Permitting for New Construction Strong in Kensington and Point Breeze During the Pandemic

For this month’s Philadelphia Housing Index (PHI) blog post, we took a look at new construction permit data from Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspection to see how Philadelphia’s development pipeline performed during the COVID-19 pandemic and which neighborhoods showed the most construction permitting activity in the past year. We filtered the data to examine only new construction building permits for both residential and commercial development.

It’s not surprising that overall, new construction activity has been significantly disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. L&I 2020 permit data shows a decline of about 52% from 2019 levels.

Although overall permitting and construction slowed, some of the city’s neighborhoods have shown to be resilient. When looking at the spatial distribution of new construction permitting activities across neighborhoods, Kensington, Point Breeze, Center City East, Center City West, and West Kensington ranked as the five top neighborhoods with most new construction permits, followed by Wharton, Richmond and Fishtown.

Kensington, with 510 new construction permits in 2020, ranked as the first among all Philadelphia neighborhoods in terms of new construction permitting activities. According to Kensington’s PHI, the housing price in Kensington has been steadily growing in the past year, which has increased from around $273,000 in January 2020 to around $324,000 in January 2021, representing a 20% increase. Similarly, for the second neighborhood on the list – Point Breeze, with around 350 new construction permits, its PHI has grown significantly by around 25% in the past year, increased from around $273,000 in January 2020 to around $340,000 in January 2021.

As discussed in one of our earlier blog posts, new construction in Fishtown and Kensington may be slowing down comparing to previous years, and investment seems to be pushing outward from their boundaries and into currently less expensive neighborhoods such as West Kensington and Richmond with growing trend of construction permits issued in recent years. West Kensington with 220 permits and Richmond 210, rank 5th and 7th respectively. While Richmond’s PHI has increased significantly by around 19% from around $135,000 in January 2020 to around $160,000 in January 2021, West Kensington’s PHI peaked at July 2020 at around $216,000, but experienced a decline since then towards the end of the year. West Kensington’s PHI has only increased by around 3% from $182,000 in January 2020 to $188,000 in January 2021.

We constructed an interactive dashboard below for you to check out the new construction permits and PHI for neighborhoods of your interests. The PHI dashboard on our website has also been renewed with up to date data. We’ll keep monitoring Philadelphia’s housing market, so stay tuned for more future blog posts!

Click here to access our interactive dashboard.


Jing Liu, Associate Director | [email protected]

Jing Liu is responsible for analyzing and updating ESI’s monthly Philadelphia Housing Index (PHI), which measures changes in the sales price of Philadelphia’s housing units through time, adjusting seasonality and housing traits to compare like-to-like, with differentiated trends by city district by using arms-length residential, single transaction sales from 2001.

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