A snapshot of the Kensington, Philadelphia neighborhood
In March 2021, with only a few days’ warning, SEPTA closed the Somerset Station “indefinitely” for important repairs.
That El stop is a critical source of transportation for the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Kensington and Port Richmond. Community members took to their phones, to social media and to the streets, and within two weeks the station was open again as repairs continued.
“What made a seemingly endless set of repairs suddenly become manageable?” NKCDC Executive Director Bill McKinney asked in Plan Philly. “Collective action and loud, clear voices. Residents, civic groups, and nonprofits stood up together and won this battle.”
That is the Kensington that NKCDC knows, and the one represented here in 12 questions.
Image: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
Right now, how willing are you to become involved in your community by working with others to make things happen?
In 2020 more than half of those surveyed said they were “very willing” to become involved in the community by working with others to make things happen—the largest percentage since we began asking this question in 2013.
About this survey
As a NeighborWorks organization, every three years NKCDC takes a survey of Kensington to learn how residents are thinking and feeling about their community. We appreciate the hundreds of people who give us this important window into our Philadelphia neighborhood. For this survey, we focus on neighbors living in an area bounded by Cambria Street and Aramingo, Lehigh, and Kensington Avenues. For more details, please see “Additional survey details” at bottom.
Reading the charts
These are stacked bar charts. Each bar represents 100% of the responses in the year (or category) labeled at the bottom of the bar. Each color represents a different response to the survey question, with the most positive response represented at the top of the bar (generally the strongest color) and the least positive response on the bottom. The size of the segments is based on the percent of people who gave each response in that year. Each colored section is labeled with its percent of the total for that bar.
How much of a positive difference do you feel that you, yourself, can make in your community?
In 2020, a full 70% of those surveyed believed they could make “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of positive difference in the community—up nearly 15% from when we began asking the question in 2013.
Thinking about the next three years, how much would you say your community is likely to change?
Despite the increase in people wanting to be involved and believing that their actions made a difference, this question seemed to reveal doubts that major change will happen quickly in Kensington. Unlike in 2017, when 37% of those surveyed believed that the Philadelphia neighborhood would “improve a lot” over the next three years, in 2020, less than half were so optimistic. About 40% of those who expected the neighborhood to improve said new development and investment would drive the change.
Healing is a process, one day at a time, as our community transforms from one thing to another. Our community, our Philadelphia neighborhood is starting to open up more. They are acknowledging there is a problem and working together.
Kensington Avenue resident
Overall, considering everything, how satisfied would you say you are living in this community?
While the percentage of people who said they were “very satisfied” (top band of color) remained about the same from 2017 to 2020, the total percentage of people who said they were satisfied or very satisfied declined sharply. In fact, more people were unsatisfied in 2020 than seven years earlier. In 2020 (below), more renters reported they were satisfied than homeowners, and more residents with children at home said they were satisfied than people without children.
Satisfaction for renters and homeowners (2020 only)
Satisfaction with and without children at home (2020 only)
When I first moved to Somerset Street there were no drug dealers on the corners. Once they closed the tracks they spread out all over. Now I have drug dealers on the corner.
Somerset Street resident
How safe do you feel walking in the community during the day time?
How safe do you feel walking in the community at night?
People’s feelings of safety while walking during the day have generally declined since 2013, falling more than 20% in the last three years. In 2020, more residents reported feeling “very unsafe” at night than they had in 2013.
How would you rate the police response in your community?
How would you rate the fire department response in your community?
How would you rate the trash service in your community?
Over the time we have been giving this survey, respondents’ overall satisfaction with police and fire department response have each fallen slightly, although the percentage of people who rated those services “very good” (top band of color) has grown. Trash service didn’t fare as well. Less than half as many residents rated it “good” or “very good” in 2020 as they had seven years earlier.
NKCDC is the reason I feel positive that these issues are being addressed.
The NKCDC mission addresses issues of homelessness, affordable housing, attracting commercial and residential activity, targeting minority owned businesses to bring much needed tax dollars to abandoned buildings and jobs for residents.
Memphis Street resident
How likely would you say it is that people in your community would help if you needed a ride somewhere?
Kensington remains a community where neighbors look out for each other. From 2013 to 2020, three-quarters of survey respondents consistently said they would expect their neighbors to help if they needed a ride, an elderly neighbor needed assistance, or someone asked for emergency child care.
How likely would you say it is that people in your community would help if an elderly neighbor needed someone to periodically check on him or her?
How likely would you say it is that people in your community would help if a neighbor needed someone to take care of a child in an emergency?
Success in adversity
This word cloud, a visual summary of 2020 survey comments, says it all. Kensington is a community of resilient neighbors, determined to take back their Philadelphia neighborhood overrun by the opioid epidemic and careless development. In conditions that would make most neighborhoods crumble, the Kensington community has gotten stronger.
- In March 2021, Somerset Neighbors for Better Living finalized a community benefits agreement guaranteeing affordable housing in a new development at 2740 Amber Street.
- In April 2021, Harrowgate Civic Association and Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC) teamed up with the City of Philadelphia and other local organizations to give Covid vaccinations to almost 2,000 residents.
- Hundreds of members of civic associations and other community groups turned out April 10, 2021, for Philadelphia’s annual Spring Cleanup, and a legion of smaller cleanups were continuing through the spring as we published this.
NKCDC advances social equity & economic empowerment by nurturing and creating opportunities for residents to live in, and actively shape, their neighborhoods of choice.
We use a strategic combination of real estate development, community engagement, and people-centered direct services to ensure all of our neighbors can remain—and thrive—where they choose to live. Whether we are building affordable housing or helping residents build their wealth, we pledge to promote equity, stability, and safety in all we do, with a sharp focus on those most at-risk of being displaced.
Additional survey details
A few caveats about 2020
With Covid and protests against police violence in Kensington and around the country, 2020 was an unusual year for our Philadelphia neighborhood survey. Indications of major swings of opinion this year suggest the possibility of a change over time, but cannot provide statistical evidence of a true difference.
- Our sampling method changed. Because Covid prevented NKCDC staff from knocking on doors, we reached neighbors by phone, at outdoor events, and through online ads. This non-random sampling did not attempt to ensure that every resident had the same likelihood of being chosen for the survey.
- NKCDC received about half as many responses as previous years—121 in this presentation.
- Although the vast majority of responses come from a 1.8-square-mile area bounded Cambria Street and Aramingo, Lehigh, and Kensington Avenues, this presentation includes responses from the larger Kensington neighborhood north of Lehigh Avenue. In 2020, 98 of the responses fell within in our focus area, and 23 came from outside it.
Comparing demographic data from the U.S. Census with data collected in a survey can give a sense of how well that survey may represent the community. In our case, comparing Census estimates for our expanded survey area in Kensington shows several discrepancies across the years of our survey, 2013-2020.
- Nearly two-thirds of our respondents have been women, where the general population is roughly 50-50.
- Although we exceeded the percentage of people who identify as Hispanic or Latinx across Philadelphia (about 15%), we have under-represented Hispanics in our survey area, where the Census estimates Hispanics make up more than half the population.
- Although we may have roughly matched the racial makeup of Philadelphia as a whole (about 42% Black, 40% White), our survey has over-represented African Americans and under-represented White people in our survey area, among other variations.