Jul 8, 2016

Allentown's Solution Is Its Problem

When I ran as an independent for mayor in 2005,  my message was shunned by The Morning Call and the establishment.  I stated that Allentown had become a poverty magnet, and very soon that density of poverty would create urban problems not normally associated with cities this small.  Multiple social agencies were giving hardcore transients "move in" money.  Lo and behold eleven years later,  despite a $Billion dollars of development,  the city still thinks that the problem is a lack of affordable housing.

Allentown doesn't suffer from lack of affordable housing,  Allentown suffers from too much affordable housing, and too much political correctness.  Stand across from a city center corner market and watch three generations of people throw their empty snack bags on the sidewalk,  even though they are only 25 feet away from a trash can.  We don't need $2 an hour parking meters, we need $25 dollar littering fines.  We don't need a Parking Authority,  we need a Littering Authority.

The City and the NIZ board are going to do a study about affordable housing, hire a consultant and probably include some local neighborhood advocates.  The Morning Call will write some articles about it.  When they come up with a solution they should share it with Detroit, Camden, Los Angeles, and the other 100 poor urban centers.  Gotta love government studies.

ADDENDUM: If the above sounds harsh,  understand that as someone who grew up in the 1950's, Allentown was a wonderful place to throw away, and thrown away it was.   Although the town has changed radically,  that toothpaste is not  going back into the tube.  New pragmatic leadership is needed.  Nothing could be less relevant to overall Allentown than a few blocks on Hamilton Street.


LVCI said...

Affordable housing doesn't mean someone paying half of what the apartments down the hall are paying . Why would anyone locate to Allentown knowing they'd half to work twice as hard for the same apartment.

The article also mentioned rehabbing single family occupied homes. Although this seems like the best idea the writer went on to say they had trouble selling them even for $95,000 or less. There's no need for a study already knowing from experience neither of these work.

Instead of building another bunch of unneeded office and store rentals for transient businesses in the riverfront area it would have been a perfect opportunity to create a new non rental residential community area. This coupled with more restrictive zoning and financial incentives for the deconversion of multiple units back into single homes.

It should be clear as day over the years Allentown has become the low cost rental capital of the Lehigh Valley for both short term businesses and residents. Exactly the opposite of what it once was. Duh!

michael molovinsky said...

LVCI@7:56, everything you mention has been done, several times already. the overlook complex at the former hanover acres is both sales and rentals. the North Street project by central catholic is sales. numerous organizations over the years have rehabbed homes and sold them at a loss. some of these homes were done several times, at enormous indirect expense to the taxpayers. truth be told you can buy a house in center city for 35K. if you cannot not afford that, and swing it by your own volition, the city will be better off if you're not a home owner.

Monkey Momma said...

I will admit that I laughed out loud when I read that the geniuses of ANIZDA, together with the City itself, are funding a study. On affordable housing. Only someone paid by taxpayer dollars would be so idiotic as to think a study will do any good whatsoever. If they don't already know the City and its inhabitants, then why are we paying them in the first place?

Mind you, these are all the same people who assured us that Reillyville would "lift all boats" and rid the City of the "cancer" that is its own people. Now, they're scratching their heads with wonder, because a few shiny new buildings did not result in world peace and a cure for the cancer of Allentown.

george schaller said...

Hasn't all of Allentown's economic creations fictitiously faked always been a Z problem form its very beginnings?! Feet on the street does not make a balanced commerce spreadsheet?!
Most simpletons can even verify not vilify this fact just by a short walk if you dare?!

Julian Kern said...

Okay here are my thoughts on the issues brought up in this article. 1. We do not need to hire a consultant to put together a plan. The city has wasted enough money on consultants and has put together enough plans. Every time the city puts together a plan they don't follow through with them anyways. We have people here locally who can give input and help put together a plan without hiring a consultant. It's called getting the community involved. So, instead of hiring a consultant, get the community involved in the discussions and actually listen to them.

2. For anyone who says there is enough affordable housing in the city I would like to know what you consider affordable. Also there is a difference between affordable housing and low income/public housing. According to the "Out of Reach 2016" study done by the National Low Income Housing Coalition In Pennsylvania, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $950. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities without paying more than 30% of income on housing a household must earn $3,167 monthly or $38,000 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of: 18.27 an hour.

3. As stated in the article there is plenty of dilapidated and substandard housing in the city. This is something we at the Allentown Tenant Association have been saying for almost five years now. The quality of our housing stock should be one of the city's most top concerns because neglected housing contributes to numerous issues such as: Attracts criminals, decreases revenue, decreases property values, higher utilization of city resources, contributes to blight, attracts illegal dumping, etc.

4. The city needs to push for more home ownership. I have heard there were tax incentive programs used in the past that were helping people become home owners. I don't know what the program was called but maybe this is something the city should look into.

5. When I read this section in the article: "Most are more than a century old, many are substandard and nearly 70 percent are occupied by renters or owned by absentee landlords with little incentive to improve them." It made me feel like they are saying most renters are the problem or the cause of the substandard housing. I just want to say that just because someone rents does not make them a bad person or mean they don't care about the neighborhood where they live. There are good renters as well as bad. The same goes for landlords. What the city needs to do is take action to address the issues of substandard rental conditions and push the slumlords/absentee landlords to take care of their properties. Who do you think rents to the slum tenants? The slumlords and the absentee landlords do because they don't care. Good landlords will take their time to do background checks and screen their tenants.

6. I also want to point out that just because someone is poor does not make them a bad person or mean they don't care about the city. It seems to me some people think all poor people are bad people and need to be pushed out of the city.

7. We have been hearing from renters throughout center city that landlords are raising the rents. Some have told us that their landlord told them straight out that the reason they are raising the rents is because of the development that has happened downtown.

8. I am not sure which steps to take to make sure affordable housing is included but I agree the neighborhoods should include a mix of incomes. In my opinion the city should hold open forum discussions on the affordable housing topic so the community can give their input and then a decision can be made from there.

Atown Assassin said...

I don't understand how people think the Government is responsible for providing food, housing and medical benefits for people who shouldn't make babies in the first place.
I never made any kids because i wasn't financially stable enough to raise them and provide for them. So, why should I pay for irresponsible people who are probably incapable of providing for themselves let alone their 4 children.
I'm not trying to sound harsh but we've become a welfare dependant society with genetations procreating on Government handouts.
If you want Goverment benefits you should get your tubes tide or fend for yourselves. Slow animals in the wild don't reproduce...neither should you.

George Ruth said...

Right on "Atown Assassin".
Re Julian Kern's #2: Your math may be correct as to one person living in a house. However, a married couple (do they still exist?) each earning Walmart money can manage those costs. We have to stop making sure 16-year-old mothers of two have 'their own place to stay.' It's time for them to move back with momma and pappa like the good ol days. And it's time to deny any public assistance to a woman who won't or can't identify the sperm donor. Anything less just enables the behavior that caused the problem in the first place.
When watching the coverage of the Dallas debacle recently did anybody else wonder how many of the 'peaceful demonstrators' could identify their daddy? Therein, my friends, lies the root of our social problems today.