Feb 5, 2008

Don't Get Cheated Again

Mayor Pawlowski told The Morning Call that those opposed to the Home Sale Inspection Law had ample opportunity to speak out against it. In reality most homeowners had no idea such an ordinance was in the works. City Council passed it on December 19th, their last meeting of the year. That evening the main agenda was the dismissal of the police officer and the raise for the mayor's position. Also that evening, when I questioned adding new responsibilities for code enforcement when they still had not hired a Director of Community Development, the administration replied an announcement was forthcoming. Since then, the newly announced director resigned because of his own code deficiencies. Last week the administration urged our community leaders to report their neighbors who are selling their house by owner. I believe such an intrusive law should not be based on such misrepresentations. Home owners should defend their property rights. I believe our ethics as a seller, and our diligence as a buyer have been, and are sufficient. I urge all citizens to call city council and ask that ordinance Home Inspection 109-2007 be repealed.

UPDATE: At the beginning of the meeting, City Council declined my request to consider repeal. I believe the citizens of Allentown deserve better than legislation through misrepresentation. I will endeavor to bring this issue to voter referendum.
UPDATE 2: After I left the meeting, Councilman Donovan proposed, and council accepted, a motion to restudy the issue, while the ordinance stays in effect. Although this course of action is less than satisfactory to me, I do appreciate his intervention.


Jeff Pooley said...

Mike--I'm guessing that a poll of Allentown residents would show overwhelming support for the pre-sale inspections. (Most of the landlords don't live in Allentown, which hurts your cause.) When Mayor Pawlowski announced the proposed policy change at my neighborhood's group, the Old Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, it received a standing ovation. I have not met a single person who lives in downtown Allentown--tenants or homeowners--who opposes this. You were on the right side of the LANTA fight, but I'm afraid that you are conflating a genuine struggle for poor people (on Lanta) with a struggle (against the pre-sale inspection) that is overwhelmingly supported by the tenants and homeowners of downtown Allentown.

michael molovinsky said...

jeff, i suppose you know that apartments are already inspected under the rental inspection law, so landlords are not a real factor, but an excuse and bogeyman used by pawlowski and the bureaucrats. i didn't see anyone from your neighborhood helping us fight Lanta. i may well take this inspection issue to a citizen referendum, in which case we will find out if the average homeowner wishes the city to get involved in what should be his personal business.

Michael Donovan said...


We (and I) heard the request for a suspension of the rules to allow reconsideration. I think you might have misinterpreted silence as being a rebuff. It was not. For me (and I believe for the others, although I cannot speak for them), out of respect for residents involved with issues already on the agenda, your request needed consideration at the time of new business, which indeed was when I offered the evaluation study as a viable option. I was glad that President D'Amore agreed with the request.

Evaluation studies are an important part of good public policy. They take a look at criteria, process, results, and future prospects of legislation. They allow appropriate reconsideration of details and a way to make improvements. They also show the importance of having good information early when developing policy.

I will be chair of this evaluation committee and will be bringing an eclectic group of people together. I hope it provides information that also can help with the city's overall housing strategy. I have already sent you an email inviting you to join us. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas.

I think it is fair to say that no one person has all the answers to the challenge of building a wonderful city. Only together -- evaluating, questioning, innovating -- can we succeed in a creative and collaborative fashion.

Always facing us is the struggle to allow people with different ideologies to come together, learn from each other, and innovate.

I hope you can accept my invitation.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

michael molovinsky said...

councilman donovan, i do not believe the home inspection program needs to be improved, i believe it needs to be dismissed. I can not help but think it is only just another distraction from our real quality of life issues and crime. our city continues to be a poverty magnet, unfortunately accumulating all the problems that involves. this administration should concern itself with safety outside our doors, and trust the homeowners to take care of their houses.

Jeff Pooley said...

Mike--as you know, the rental inspections happen every five years or so, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the sale process. (Most of the absentee-landlord properties where I live, anyway, turn over three or four times in a five-year stretch.) As you also know, nearly every single major municipality in Pennsylvania has a pre-sale inspection, including Bethlehem and Easton. Allentown's an outlier, and it's one of the reasons so many rapacious and irresponsible landlords have descended on these neighborhoods--there are no barriers to entry. And I certainly hope you do bring the issue to a citizen referendum. This the right thing to do. The outcome may disappoint you.
"Pawlowski and the bureacrats"? I genuinely respect you, and your fervent advocacy on behalf of downtown merchants. Alongside disgust at crime, there is nothing that unites people who own homes and folks who rent apartments than revulsion at the damage caused to our neighborhood by deadbeat landlords.

michael molovinsky said...

jeff, you keep using rental properties as a justification for a home inspection ordinance that will mostly effect a live-in homeowner to another live-in homeowner. until which time you come to understand while your administration tries to regulate housing with one hand, the other gives out grants funding the poverty magnet. real revulsion is that an owner will need to improve his property for the benefit of some newcomer, with no chance of recapturing that expense.

Anonymous said...

I am a landlord in Allentown, and I live in one of my own apartment buildings. I oppose the pre-sale inspections for two main reasons.

First, the timing is terrible with how slow the housing market is. I had one of my properties up for sale for 6 months with hardly any showings. A couple buyers commented that they liked the property, but were afraid because of the crime (Old Fairgrounds neighborhood). The other reason, is that the current rental inspection process doesn't seem to be working: not enough inspectors, and/or citations not being enforced/no teeth in them.

The property next to the one I live in was labeled "Unfit for Human Habitation" in early September. It was so bad, that the tenants had to move in less than 24 hours! Here we are in mid-February, more than 90 days after everything was supposed to be fixed, not much work has been done. These are local slumlords who own multiple properties and well known to the housing inspector that was here. I've called about construction debris & broken glass in the back yard (like that for weeks), trash, doors left wide open for days, the sound of running water, etc. Not much has been done. Had to call the cops eventually about the place being wide open. Are the inspectors overworked or are they just citing and forgetting about them?

If the inspectors are this overworked, how long will it take for them to come out and do a pre-sale inspection when I relist my property?

The previous inspection process needed to be improved before adding more burden and waiting to an already slow market.

Anonymous said...

This is my first look at your blog. Since I no longer reside in Allentown, I don't catch all the news. Do people know that Pawlowski managed Rosenfelds apartment under Alliance for Building Communities, (formally Lehigh Housing)? I was considerabley upset when I learned Fred Banuelos had been nominated by Pawloski to be the director of community and economic developement. Fortunately, it was discovered that Mr. Banuelos had code violations of his own for many years. Those years being the ones he was employed by Ed at ABC, later becoming president and ceo of ABC after Ed left to run for mayor. The thing that has upset me the most is nothing has ever been said about this after his nomination was withdrawn. At least nothing I've seen. As you probably know ABC is a nonprofit agency for affordable housing for the poor. Do you think Fred made considerable profit while working at ABC and being a slumlord? I just thought more should have been reported about this man and this nomination. How many other cronies has Ed provided jobs for?
I posted this on another topic before I saw this one. Forgive the double post please.