Affordable-housing plan using eminent domain advances in Council

The 2300 block of Gerritt Street in Point Breeze includes three vacant houses. The city's lack of an efficient system for dealing with abandoned, tax-delinquent properties means such sites often remain festering for many years. In other cities, they would be cleared off within as little as a year.
The 2300 block of Gerritt Street in Point Breeze includes three vacant houses. The city's lack of an efficient system for dealing with abandoned, tax-delinquent properties means such sites often remain festering for many years. In other cities, they would be cleared off within as little as a year.
Posted: November 15, 2012

CITY COUNCIL'S Rules Committee moved forward with a controversial plan Tuesday that would allow the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) to take more than two dozen properties through eminent domain to build affordable housing in Point Breeze.

A month ago, that plan, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on behalf of the Nutter administration, included 43 properties, some of which private developers owned and planned to develop.

PRA had since reduced the number of properties it will condemn to 28, including 17 privately owned and 11 city-owned properties, after it found that owners have projects under way, applied for permits or are using the lots as side yards to their residences. Council could give the plan final approval in two weeks.

But even with the reduced list, developer Ori Feibush, who made national headlines recently for his fight with the city over a vacant lot, said the city is taking several properties owned by himself or developers he represents.

"The condemning of real estate is a sacred act, which should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances by a municipality," Feibush said. "It should not be used to subvert private development in a neighborhood that desperately needs it."

The city has said it's simply trying to preserve some affordability in Point Breeze. Some longtime residents are concerned that gentrification will make living there too costly.

"The market in Point Breeze will move forward; we know that. This is a part of preserving particular land whether it be public or private to provide affordable housing," Johnson said. The city will request development proposals for the lots in the spring and units will sell for about $150,000.

Of the properties the city now plans to take, owners owe $32,836 in back taxes and $133,468 in liens. Point Breeze has 311 city-owned and 1,000 privately owned properties.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|