Finding Housing in Philly (Part 1): Know Your Neighborhoods

I definitely owe you guys a blog…Things have been a little more hectic and crazy this semester than last. Last semester there seemed to be more of an easing-in period with classes, and this semester that has definitely not been the case. Not to mention the additional stress of internship placements and (for some of us) preparing for our presentations at the CIES annual conference in a few weeks. But this week is Spring Break! And while “Spring” feels a little generous, given that we’ve had two snowstorms since break started, it definitely feels nice to have a week off from classes. And, as you can see, I’m using this time to get caught up on some of the many duties I’ve been neglecting, including my blog!

With admissions season really heating up, I’ve been starting to get a lot of questions from prospective students, and one of the ones that keeps popping up has been about finding housing. So I thought I would dedicate a blog post to talking about housing options, and how to make Philly your home while you’re here! As I started writing though, I realized I could write a lot on this subject (where are all these words when I need to write my policy brief?), so this is part 1 of a two-part blog on finding housing, and this one focuses on neighborhoods. (And don’t worry, I won’t make you wait a month for the next one!)

So, before you start looking at actual apartments, here’s a crash course on the neighborhoods near Penn. (I feel like I should put in a disclaimer that I am certainly not a Philadelphia native, but I did get some help from!)

 3.10 Blog Pic 1

West Philadelphia

Most IEDP students tend to live west of the Schuylkill, on the same side of the river as Penn. Warning: if you live over here, be prepared for people to make a Fresh Prince of Bel Air reference literally every single time you tell someone from outside of Philly where you live.

  • University City is the area right around Penn, and has a lot of different apartment options, especially if you are looking for a large complex. This area is usually a bit more expensive than some of the other parts of West Philly, but is very convenient to campus.
  • Powelton Village is just north of campus. There are also a lot of housing options over here, especially houses and smaller apartment buildings. This is a little bit more in “Drexel territory.”
  • Spruce Hill/Cedar Park is the area west of 40th About 80% of our cohort lives in one of these neighborhoods, between about 40th and 50th streets. Housing tends to be a little bit cheaper, especially the farther you get from campus, and there are apartment buildings, as well as a lot of houses.

Center City

This is what would be considered downtown Philadelphia. There is a lot going on, but it does tend to be more expensive than West Philadelphia.

  • Rittenhouse Square, Fitler Square, and Graduate Hospital are some of the main neighborhoods that Penn graduate students live in.

 When deciding what neighborhood to live in, here are some things to think about.

  • Parking – If you have a car, you’ll want to check out parking regulations in different neighborhoods. Some areas are stricter than others, and may require you to have a Philadelphia license plate to park on the street.
  • Transit – Familiarize yourself with the SEPTA system and the Penn Transit options, especially if you’re planning on living a little bit farther from campus. Both the trolley and the subway run between West Philadelphia and Center City, and Penn also offers a lot of free transportation services in the evening. I didn’t know about the Penn Bus until wayyy to late first semester, and could have saved myself a lot of late-night walks home from the library!
  • Safety – Consider living in the Penn Patrol Zone, or within the University City District. Penn sends out text alerts about any safety incidents within this zone, and you can also arrange for walking escorts. I live around 49th and Baltimore and personally have never felt unsafe, but it’s always nice to know your options!

So take the next few days to start researching neighborhoods, and I’ll be back soon with some more tips on the housing search!

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