The city is taking a new strategy on bringing blighted property up to standard. It certainly could help us here in Frankford. See below.
The Department of Licenses and Inspections has launched a new initiative to better hold private owners accountable for the maintenance of their vacant property. This effort is part of a larger initiative, led by the Managing Director’s Office and the Finance Director’s Office, regarding how both City and privately owned vacant property is bought, sold, and maintained.
L&I has identified approximately 25,000 unoccupied structures believed to be vacant because the owner has either obtained a vacant license or was cited for violations that are likely indicators of vacancy. The Department has mapped these vacants and, depending on the market conditions of the overall neighborhood, will use legal tools to hold owners responsible for the state of their property. The goal of this program is to incent owners to repair or sell their properties to someone else who will repair it, thereby improving the neighborhood in accordance with the vision of residents and community groups. The Department will then be able to concentrate its resources on neighborhoods where the need is greatest.
This effort is different from previous efforts around vacant property in three main ways:
o Focus on Finding the Owners: A team of dedicated researchers is culling several databases to find good names and addresses for the owners of vacant properties.
o New Enforcement Measures: The City has new powers to extradite owners of a large number of vacant, blighted property and attach liens to their personal assets. The City is looking at taking owners of vacant properties to Sheriff sale for L&I debts. The City will also be enforcing the “doors and windows” ordinance which allows L&I to charge owners $300 per day per opening that is not covered with a functioning door or window. Properties in violation of this ordinance will be posted with a bright pink poster.
o Dedicated Court Time: L&I and the Law Department are working with Judge Moss to have dedicated days to hear vacant cases. This will make sure that these cases flow through the legal process quickly.
The first “blight court” session occurred September 20th. Of the 48 cases that were listed, 35 cases entered into a consent agreement and will be installing windows and doors within the next 30-60 days. In addition, these 35 cases will generate more than $87,000 in revenue for the City from payment of license fees, back taxes, and fines. Of the 176 properties that the Department has cited for windows and doors violations two or more times, 50 properties have complied – a compliance rate of almost 30%!
Blight is a major issue facing our neighborhoods and change will not happen over night. Hopefully, this program, in addition to the good work the Department does every day, will start slowly shifting neighborhoods. Philadelphia simply cannot afford to pay the price for neglectful owners anymore.
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Department of Licenses and Inspections