Jan 25, 2009

The Second Tenant

As both a property manager and a political activist, I know Allentown needs less housing, not more, to upgrade itself out of its current problems. I have opposed the mass conversion of commercial space into loft apartments, and the building of new townhouses on former parking lots. The apologists for this administration, both amateur and professional, dismissed my perspective as nay-saying, claiming a middle-class will relocate to these urban experiments. Experience has taught me that the first tenant doesn't matter, who will be the second and third tenant? Will that new apartment soon be occupied by another young unwed mother on a buffet of entitlements. Several years ago the residents around St. Pauls Church, at 8th and Walnut, objected to losing the neighborhood parking lots for a Nic Zawarski Townhouse project. Pawlowski and The Parking Authority bestowed the parking lots, high hopes and KOZ status on the new townhouses. Those completed and unsold are now being offered for rent.* Although the apologists explained how the units were built for childless well heeled buyers, under the reality of federal rental discrimination laws, the Allentown School System better buy a few more desks.

*http://www.niczhomes.com/rental-properties/rental-communities.php

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mike,

This is no surprise to those of us who truly understand and care about the problems that afflict the downtown. Thanks for staying on top of this and other stories.
The information you provided is important yet one must seek it out on this blog. While Bill White wastes his talent on minor issues, Allentown’s endemic troubles remain off the Morning Call’s radar screen.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Ok, so your solution to cure Allentown of its problems is to tear it down. How creative.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for speaking 'truth to power,' as the liberals like to say. Ms. Coulter has it just right. Liberals are always looking for the 'root cause' of social ills (so as not to blame those really responsible) but the root cause of so many of our societal ills is so many 15 year old mothers. We now live in a society where 'mom' is 15, 'grandma' is 30, "great grandma" is 45.....
And we get to provide for them all. How nice.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael, these Zawarski campaign contributions, made to Mayor Ed over the last three years add totalling $15,200, answer all my questions.


Zawarski, John Robert
Easton, PA 18045-612 4/26/2007 $150.00

Zawarski, John Robert
Easton, PA 180456123 1/16/2007 $1,000.00
Occupation: Builder
Employer: Nic Zawarski & Sons
Bethlehem, PA 18018

Zawarski, John Robert
Bethlehem, PA 18018 8/16/2006 $200.00
Occupation: Executive
Employer: Nic Zawarski & Sons
Bethlehem, PA 18104

Zawarski, John Robert
Bethlehem, PA 18018 3/8/2006 $10,000.00
Occupation: Executive
Employer: Nic Zawarski & Sons
Bethlehem, PA 18104

Martin Zawarski
Easton PA 18045
Date: 01/31/2008
Amount: $100.00

John Zawarski
Easton PA 18045
Employer Name and Mailing Address
Nic Zawarski and Sons, 1441 Linden Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Date: 01/31/2008, 04/25/2008, 08/27/2008
Occupation: Real Estate Developer
Amount: $250.00, $500.00, $1,500.00
Date: 09/29/2008
Amount: $250.00

Taras Zawarski
Easton PA 18045
Employer Name and Mailing Address
Nic Zawarski and Sons, 1441 Linden Street, Bethlehem PA 18018
Date: 01/31/2008, 08/27/2008
Occupation: Real Estate
Amount: $250.00, $1,000.00

michael molovinsky said...

anon apologist 6:31, although i did mention less housing, not more, i didn't say anything about tearing existing housing down. indiscriminately allowing more density downtown was a mistake. hundreds of units, in total, and most not upscale, have been approved for various commercial buildings. sorry that i knew it was a mistake before being approved, and in some cases subsidized.

bernie, although i didn't draw the same conclusion as you with regard to joyce marin's contribution, certainly 15k in donations from this contractor is suspect. it was also inappropriate for karen pooley to support the parking authority selling more parking lots to zawarski at the hardship of the women who work at verizon on the night shift.

Anonymous said...

MM -

How could there be any "unsold units"?

The line from Zawarski and Pawlowski has been that all the units built were sold, and only lots in the (still) unbuilt next phase were available.

Are you saying that (gasp) the Mayor has (again) been less than truthful?

Anonymous said...

Michael, the recent fire at a typical Allentown rental conversion points EXACTLY to the problem of density you address. I just posted the following on the Morning Call Forum in discussion of this situation:


Did the research myself.

According to zillow.com , 840 North Jordan Street is a multi-family unit. the total 2008 property taxes listed for this building are listed at $1,729. YES!

Also consider the total in property tax includes school, city, and county tax, meaning the school portion is probably a little over $1000!

SO, here we have a multi-family RENTAL UNIT contributing about $1000 annually toward the $50,000 ASD spends to educate the children of that residence.

Does anyone see anything WRONG in this equation?


Maybe Zillow is totally wrong. If not, who in Allentown's administration is dropping the ball in fairly taxing this, and probably HUNDREDS of other Allentown conversions?

Glenn said...

Anon 2:03 PM... it's interesting to note on the county website that homes next to this one are owned by one from Emmaus, another by someone in S.Carolina and yet another neighbor from Bethlehem and each are listed as single family dwellings. Hmmmm? Makes you wonder eh??

Glenn said...

In fact more homes are owned by out of towners then residents in that area! Are these declared rentals?

Click On My Name

Anonymous said...

Anon 203pm, you're right - according to the county website, 840 N. Jordan is a 2-unit, and the total annual tax bill is $1,728.57. The School piece is $1,101.46.

The County has all information like this publicly available:

http://www.lehighcounty.org/Assessment/Puba.cfm?doc=SearchAddr_form.cfm&CFID=8678679&CFTOKEN=39168450

Sorry, I still have to learn hyperlinks, but that's the address to use.

The Banker

michael molovinsky said...

anon 2:03, my point was that the townhouses were given KOZ because they were to be sold to a demographic with few to any children., now they are being offered for rent by the builder and may well attract more children while paying no taxes.
your point was that converted multi-units attract more children than single family , but pay no more in taxes. that is not necessarily true. in my management business i rented mostly one bedroom apartments and only had a couple children over many years, yet paid the same school taxes or more than single family houses with 3 to 5 bedrooms having 3 or more children. also there is a vacancy factor for most landlords. i will concede probably the converted apartments result in more students than if all the properties were still single family, but know of no fair way to tax differently because of all the variables.
glenn, the city is pretty efficient in picking up which properties are owner occupied, and which are rented. if the mailing address is different, it's classified a rental.

Anonymous said...

The thing with the Walnut Street properties is the price, owned or rented. The cost, combined with the low number of bedrooms, is prohibitive for low-income residents. Chances are the people living in them will choose private school or another district if/when they have kids.

If someone in one of these places send a kid to ASD, all the better. ASD needs more middle class students.

Out of the dozen or more housing developments in the city over the last 3 years this is probably one of the least likely to contribute students to the ASD, even with a few units rented.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:39 -

What you are relying on is that the homes maintain their value. Given what's happened in the real estate market, I would expect the values to decrease (over time) relative to surrounding homes. Certainly the "value" or attractiveness of these homes will diminish further when the KOZ provisions expire in 2011.

What you are left with therefore, are what will become the high-density slums of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

In the downtown one sees often that economy is achievable when more people are brought in to share the burden of the higher rent. As zoning has no enforcement mechanism for “number of unrelated adults in a single household” people are free to do as they please and often do.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

somewhere, sometime i would like to see an explanation of why the city feels KOZ is appropriate for residential properties.

Anonymous said...

I can only say that it is true there are MANY lower income and single adult/multiple kids dwellings downtown. There are also alot of people trying to do better for themselves because no one, whether rich or poor,wants to stay in the same situation all their lives. Even the "15year old mother"wants better for her children. I believe that even if the City did try to limit the amount of tenants that could dwell in a home and the "type" of families that could inhabit downtown, it would still take a MIGHTY push to get people to do what needs to be done to change the attitudes and opinions when it comes to A-town. At this point, I think we will need MORE than new housing laws and programs....

Alfonso TOdd

Anonymous said...

As a property manager and owner, I think you should acknowledge this central reality: more housing in the downtown hurts your bottom line. The basic law of supply and demand says that when there is more supply and consistent demand that prices must go lower. I think it is entirely worth your readers knowing that you potentially lose profit on your business under the law of supply and demand.

Of course, price is also subject to other matters. Demand is already relatively low b/c of the condition of housing, neighborhoods and downtowns. But let's face it, even with that impact on demand, for every unit that comes on line in the downtown, you, as a property owner and property manager, stand to lose money.

I don't fault you for the self-preservation, but if you don't acknowledge this, your integrity is suspect, even though it does undermine your credibility to disclose this conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps my Anon 2:03PM comment needs a little more explanation.

It is MOST DEFINITELY housing density that is pressuring the Allentown School District, and creating ever-rising school taxation, all the while with out-of-date textbooks, and lack of other instructional materials. Even the current spending on building renovations can be blamed on Allentown's growing number of multi-family units.

My problem is, it would seem property taxation to support Allentown's schools no longer make any sense.

In the example of the recent fire, we found a single family building, converted into two family building, yet continuing to make a single family tax contribution! That's like building two homes and only extracting school taxes from ONE of them. Ridiculous, and now we see the results!

I've got to believe, the example uncovered at 840 North Jordan is VERY typical in Allentown. Why, and who is responsible for correcting this unbalance in paying for services?

Do other cities tax two (or 3) family units the same as comparable sized single family units?

After checking property records for an hour or so, I find this unbalance is common in Allentown.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 12:32, sorry to negate your premise, but i do not own or manage any property downtown, nor have i for a number of years. i would like to see a moratorium on additional units to upgrade the clientele for the sake of the city, not my sake. likewise, existing units could be gentrified to attract a more middle class tenant. there are several landlords providing a high end product in old allentown, in existing converted units, and they are rightly appreciated by oapa.

Anonymous said...

To follow-up on my original 2:03Pm post, I did further examination of property tax records in Allentown.

Within a 3 block radius of the miniscule sampling of 840 North Jordan Street, I find 7 other buildings converted from one living unit to two (or more) living units yet STILL being taxed as single living units!

What sense is this?

Two living units (or more) probably means at least two vehicles per property, potentially TWO (or more) families worth of school age kids, TWICE (or more) the need for police and fire protection, etc., etc, yet Allentown only extracts the SAME amount of taxes as it would if such buildings were still single living unit properties. Say what?

The next Allentown mayoral candidate is a shoe-in if he/she addresses and corrects this situation.

Anonymous said...

Alphonso, yes even 15 year old moms to better life for her children. But your acceptance of the premise of a girl that age with more than one kid is what is crazy. Those folks can 'better' their lives by living with mom and grandma (assuming there are no men in their lives) and not live off taxpayers and charities.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

How will the cheerleader for Allentown react to the news that a student was strong armed robbed in a classroom, during the school day, by adults at Raub Middle school. It’s time to take off the rose colored glasses.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

As a (soon to be former) resident of the Farr Lofts, I have to say that Allentown has promised much and delivered little. Whatever there may be going on between the Fegleys and the mayor, the Brew Works remains the only valid attraction in downtown.

However, I agree 100% with this concept of the "second tenant." I was the first renter in my apartment. I would have moved out at the end of my lease last year, but I had not saved enough yet to purchase a home. Here's just a small sampling of the nonsense that goes on in and around that building:

- There is no enforcement of parking in the lot behind the building. Oh, APA tickets cars, but if cars without permits are parked in the lot, the parking authority will not tow without ownership of the building requesting it. Ownership is nearly impossible to get a hold of, especially on weekends when the parking situation is the worst.

- Several weeks ago, the fire alarm in the building went off at approximately 4:30am. The fire department can't turn the building's alarm off, and the superintendent WAS IN PHILADELPHIA. The fire alarm would have gone off all night, except that one of the other tenants pried the cover off the alarm panel and turned it off.

- Nearly every Saturday, protesters from some church nearby yell at the top of their lungs. More than once, I have heard slurs against Catholics and other religions. I am surprised the large Catholic population in the town has not hassled them. Regardless, I cannot believe the city grants them a permit to protest at that corner.

- The storage units in the basement for tenants have been burglarized at least once. The police were even less interested in this than the illegal parking.

I won't even get into the graffiti.

I am constantly amazed by the different trajectories of Allentown and Harrisburg. 30 years ago, Allentown had a thriving downtown shopping district, and Harrisburg was one of the most blighted cities in the country. I recognize the presence of the state government plays a big factor, but how much would it take to get Stephen Reed to at least consult to Allentown's government?