Apr 8, 2016
Allentown Tenant Association
The Tenant Association was started and is run by two well intentioned young men, Julian Kern and Ken Heffentrager. They believe that there are far too many problem landlords in Allentown, and that the city is lax in dealing with the situation. They routinely display photographs of buildings they consider deficient on their facebook page. They have become regulars at Allentown City Council, where they present their documentation. They are now asking the city to establish a tenant/landlord court, because they believe that the district court system is too lenient on landlords.
Before I was a blogger, and before I was an advocate for the Park System and WPA, I was a landlord. A couple of years ago I explained to Julian and Ken that I don't believe that anybody buys a building with the intention of depreciating their asset. Generally speaking, the current available tenant pool in center city isn't an easy one to deal with. Although, I'm not known to shy away from controversy, I have remained somewhere between neutral and supportive of their efforts. However, I believe now something needs to be addressed, and that is simply that overstated blight designations can actually cause more blight.
Looking at the map above, who would want to invest in that neighborhood? A tenant moves out, leaves an apartment full of furniture and trash. The landlord can't really clean and paint without putting it somewhere, usually outside. The city garbage carrier will only take away a few bags at a time, and only a couple pieces of furniture on a designated night. It's easy to take an unflattering photograph of a property, but is it indicative of its normal condition?
Despite the paint commercials on television, I can tell you that paint now a days starts to fade and peel about ten minutes after it's applied. Nothing in this post is meant to imply that there is no basis to the good work that Julian and Ken are doing. There are certainly deficient landlords and properties, however, there's far too many flags on that map to be in the city's best interest.
ADDENDUM: The Tenant Association, in addition to calling for a Housing Court, would also like to see Allentown enforce more state statutes on blight. They apparently don't have the historical perspective to realize that in the recent past Allentown has used blight designations as a backdoor to eminent domain. The designation was used against the 5th Street residents for the benefit of Sacred Heart Hospital's expansion. It was used to take the Neuweiler Brewery, although the city has done nothing responsible with the property since. It was also even used against the former property owners of the arena block. Any expansion of law requires an ethical government for fair implementation. The current ethics of city hall are too questionable to encourage them with more legalized weapons.