Aug 10, 2014

Allentown's Blighted Properties

A few years ago, Allentown decided it had too many low income people, and that they would curtail that demographic by condemning buildings. Hundreds and hundreds of buildings were tagged in center city, some for such minor violations as peeling paint. It's not uncommon to find up to four tagged buildings in one block. They tagged so many buildings, that rather than contain blight, they helped create it. They also confounded the inconsistency of their housing policy by easing the requirements to convert former commercial buildings into apartments. The end result is no less density, no less apartments, but more blight. They are now trying a herding technique. The poor are being driven off of Hamilton Street, relegated to the upper blocks of North 7th Street. The Administration hopes that Pawlowski Plaza and event center at 7th and Hamilton will attract those with a gold credit card in their wallet. They might need cattle prods to keep the perceived riffraff away.

UPDATE: This post from November of 2011, originally titled The Cattle Drive, has been attracting attention. With City Council agreeing to host a special meeting on blighted property, it seems an appropriate time to repost it.


Anonymous said...

Certainly don't know the particulars but condemning a property for "peeling paint" sounds hyperbolic at best.

Would love to see any evidence of this allegation.

michael molovinsky said...

anonymous @7:51, actually, peeling paint is one of the most common violations cited in inspections. there is only a handful of people in allentown as familiar with the rental market as i am. what are your qualifications? when this post was written in 2011, the codes were being applied in a very aggressive manner. that was the point of this post.

Anonymous said...


Yet another edited out weekend has past and I for one do not see the manna falling from the sky as predicted from the epicenter of OZ?
Also there are many forsale signs on properties and realators signs that have been past over by inspectors now multiple families are living in one bedroom apartments? Has the rent overpriced the occupancy in this land with the golden goose?

patent peding

michael molovinsky said...

this post was reissued in response to a news report about julian kern and fran dougherty. kern is a local activist, who believes that allentown's problems mostly stem from "slumlords". dougherty is the city managing director, who candidly stated that many problems stem from irresponsible tenants. from my experience, dougherty is correct. nobody buys a property, hoping to develop a depreciating asset. overzealous enforcement, as described in this post, can have an unintended consequence on the housing stock. i'm sure some owners underperform, as kern states. however, the city should guard against stigmatizing the rental business, or only slumlords will remain.

Julian Kern said...

The blight issue is from various reasons. Slumlords, slum tenants, the economy, foreclosures, bank owned properties, etc.

I never said slumlords were the only reason why we have blighted properties. They just contribute to it sometimes. We also have absentee landlords who live out of state that contribute to the blight.

In regards to the city tagging so many properties unfit and unsafe you are correct some of it was because they were too aggressive. I know some inside information regarding that issue. From a confidential source I cannot name he has told us how the mayor actually wanted properties to become tagged and blighted so he could use it has an excuse to demolish buildings and do what he wants in certain areas.

We also have been told that the rental inspection program the city has was working but when Ed became mayor he dismantled the program and now we have rentals going 10+ years without being inspected.

Yes rents are going on in certain areas as you mentioned. End result is renters being kicked out and pushed in a different section or area of the city.