A phenomenal and thorough article appeared in yesterday's Daily News, detailing an interesting aspect of the City's efforts to deal with the 5,100 dangerous properties within its limits. It may surprise you to learn that almost 300 of those properties are owned by government agencies. Those agencies, if you're keeping track at home, include the Redevelopment Authority, the Department of Public Property, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and PHDC. Of those 300, about 30 are considered imminently dangerous, which is to say that they need attention right away before they fall over.
The cost for L&I to demolish an unsafe home is about $15,000. That's actually quite reasonable. What's less reasonable is that their annual demolition budget is a mere $9M. That represents enough money to tear down about 600 homes per year. To save you the effort of doing the math, it will take eight and a half years to demolish all of the unsafe buildings in Philadelphia assuming the budget stays the same and no more buildings become unsafe in the intervening years. We have a feeling that our second assumption ain't too good.
So what can the City do? We have an idea that may just be crazy enough to work.
SELL THE UNSAFE CITY-OWNED PROPERTIES RIGHT AWAY!!!
And use the proceeds from the sales to demolish unsafe buildings all over town.
We understand that there would be challenges. With a Land Bank still not set up, each agency still has different rules for selling property. PHA needs approval from HUD to sell its properties. Maybe a number of these properties are not located in areas developers would be interested. Selling off these properties would take them out of the conversations for future projects organized by the City.
To us, none of this matters because this is an issue of public safety. We look to our elected leaders to solve this problem, and quickly. Because every day that these buildings are allowed to dangerously rot while L&I doesn't have the funds to tear them down is another day we risk the safety of our citizens. We're not saying our idea is the only possibility, but shouldn't we be trying to figure this thing out before something terrible happens?