Old First House- Frequently Asked Questions

Old First House- Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is Old First House

Old First House is a 5 story building at the corner of 4th and Race where there will be a Program of Permanent supportive housing – 34 Small Efficiency Units for individuals who were previously homeless, with a wrap around program of support.

– A Community Room with Shared Kitchen

– Supportive Services Offices

2,400 SF Commercial Space

2,000+ SF Church Office & Multipurpose Space


The building features include:

Solar Panels

High Insulation Values

Triple-pane Windows

Made of Healthy & Sustainable Materials

Green Building Certifications (anticipated)

– Enterprise Green Communities

– WELL (health & well-being focused)

– Passive House (energy efficiency focused)


Relocated 151 N. 4th Street (Fox Building)


  1. Why are we doing this?

From the time Old First returned to its original church building at 4th and Race Streets in the 1960’s, the congregation has been called to serve the most needy in our community, the homeless, unhoused and most vulnerable. Since 1984, Old First, in partnership with Bethesda Project, provided winter shelter for up to 30 men experiencing homelessness from November thru April, providing an evening meal and a mat to sleep upon on the floor of the social hall. What was begun as a temporary measure has been an ongoing ministry of Old First for 38 years. 

In 2014, Old First, through a team of members, worked with an architectural firm to do an assessment of its property and how to best utilize the church space to support it’s ministry and mission in the city.  A study was undertaken as to the costs involved in revamping the space we have and it was determined that this was not a viable option, the costs outweighed the benefits to the mission of the Church.  Sale of the property was also considered but found, again, to be an unacceptable option. 

At that point, the team recommended that Old First seek out partners to work with them in providing actual housing for previously homeless individuals through construction of an apartment building on the 4th street properties.  Another team of Old First members looked for partners and did extensive research as to possible partners.  That team overwhelmingly recommended that Old First enter into partnership with Community Ventures and DePaul USA based on shared values and missional goals.  Most importantly, the mission of providing permanent supportive housing for previously chronically homeless adults in a way that included the congregation in building community with the residents of the apartments.


  1. Who is Community Ventures? Community Ventures is a Philadelphia based, experienced nonprofit developer committed to building and operating affordable housing with neighborhood partners.  Here is a link to their website for more information: https://www.community-ventures.org/


  1. Who is DePaul USA? Depaul USA is a national homeless services nonprofit organization inspired by Vincentian values.  DePaul USA opened its first program in Philadelphia in 2009 and now operates 21 programs across 9 US cities.  Here is a link to their website for more information: https://depaulusa.org/


  1. What agreements do we already have? Old First entered into a Joint Venture agreement with Community Ventures and DePaul USA in 2020. The agreement provided that together we would work on designing a building that would include apartments for single residents along with community space for the residents and office and classroom space for the congregation.  The agreement provided that Community Ventures would have 5 years to secure financing for the project through grants and tax credits. If financing was achieved, CV would, through a Limited Partnership, enter into a long term ground lease agreement with Old First and Old First House would be built.   OF, CV and DePaul worked together on this project, and with architects and engineers to develop a plan, secure the needed zoning changes and Historical Commission permissions and engage the Old City neighbors in the plan to build what has come to be known as Old First House.  Based on this work, Philadelphia authorized a grant of $2,500,000 for the building and in 2021 an application for Affordable Housing Tax Credits was submitted for funding.  Amazingly, the project was accepted into the program on the first application.  Thereafter, there has been a need to apply for additional funding due to significant increases in the costs of building, All additional funding requests were awarded to the project.


  1. What is the legal structure and what is Old First committing to?

Old First will remain the owner of the ground upon which Old First House is being built.  A ground lease for an extended period of time will be entered into with Old First House LP who will be the possessor of the entire property, including the church classrooms and buildings.  Old First will then, in turn, lease back the office space and classroom space in the building for $1.00 per year.  The Old First House, LP is a Limited Partnership consisting of OFH Ventures Inc. as the General Partner and the funding entity as the Limited Partner.  Old First is the landowner and a tenant of a portion of the building. 

Old First will not have direct involvement of the management of the apartment building or the selection of tenants or the formal supportive services provided to the tenants as part of the supportive housing program.  Old First’s role will be to provide opportunities for community building, fellowship, meals, training in skills that members of OF can share with the residents.  For example, a knitting class, or a soap making class, or maybe a cooking class could be provided.


  1. How will this building construction be paid for?

The following is a summary of the funding sources for the construction provided by Community Ventures:

$12,255,983 – Equity from LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credits) provided by TD Bank

       $34,583 – Equity from Solar Tax Credits

  $3,750,000 – City of Philadelphia Subsidy

     $840,000 – Permanent Loan

     $500,000 – FHLB Pittsburgh Grant

     $369,750 – Reinvested Developer Fee

 $2,525,480 – PHFA DCRP Program

            $20,283,119 – TOTAL*

*excludes value of donated land from Old First


  1. What is the current schedule?

October 31, 2022 – General Contractor Selected-Domas is the GC

November 11, 2022 – Updated budgets

Dec. to Feb. 2023 – Investor/Lender Underwriting

March 2023 – Drafting of Closing Documents

March 20th – PHFA award of gap funds

March 23rd – HUD final approval of operating subsidy

April  – Submission of Closing Documents to HUD

– (process underway)

End of May – Closing & Construction Starts

May 2023 to July 2024 – Construction

July 2024 to October 2024 – Lease up


  1. How will the residential program be funded?

The funding for the supportive services and subsidized housing comes through government entities with whom DePaul USA and Community Ventures have agreements.  In addition to these sources of funding, income from the rental of the retail space will be used to offset operating costs for Old First House. 


  1. Where will those who drive to Old First be able to park?

During the week, there is generally available street parking on Race Street and other streets surrounding the church property. 

On Saturdays and Sundays, the Old First parking permit will be available so that Old First guests can park in the 4th Street block north and south of Race Street. 

A passenger loading zone has been requested on Race Street for Sundays. 

We have, before Covid we had a Parking Team that developed a list of viable parking locations in the vicinity of the church building.  That team will need to be reactivated and we welcome interested members to join that team.  We anticipate being able to provide a list of parking lots and parking rates for those lots by the time the construction starts. Valet parking is being considered.


  1. What will the access be to the sanctuary building during construction?

Access to the sanctuary building on Sundays will be through the front doors of the building.

Access to the church other times will be through the social hall doorway on the East side of the building (the side closest to Oriana Street).

There will be no access to or from the sanctuary building from the West side (the side closest to 4th Street) during construction.


  1. Where will the fencing be?

The fencing will be along 4th Street and Race Street (probably closing the sidewalk for some period of time.  The fencing will end before the west most entrance to the Sanctuary building.


  1. What programs were in the CE and Fox Building that will no longer be there?

The church office has already been moved to the temporary site on the east side of the social hall.  We will lose our showers and laundry facilities and these will not be replaced (for the church) in the new building.  As a result, we will no longer be able to host service camps in the CE building.  We are looking for an alternative location to offer service camp participants to shower until we can provide a solution on site.  Other programing done in the Fox and CE buildings have already been relocated. 


  1. What are we voting on at the meeting on April 30th?

We are voting to fully commit to Old First House being built upon the 4th Street portion of Old First’s property by entering into a 42 year ground lease for the property with Old First House LP

We are voting to lease back, at $1.00 per year, the church office and meeting space from Old First House LP for a period of 29 years plus any extension.

We are voting to  Lease to the property where the building will be built.