December 19, 2015
By Thomas H. Earle Despite the glimmer of Center City, Philadelphia remains one of the poorest big cities in America. One of the tragedies of that circumstance is the lack of decent homes for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. We can do so much more about this crisis, especially with a new mayor who has made fighting poverty his priority. The waiting lists for this kind of housing are overwhelming and, in the case of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, closed. Yet the need continues to grow.
December 11, 2015 |
Nearly two years after its creation, the Philadelphia Land Bank is ready to do business. Mayor Nutter on Wednesday announced the transfer of 150 property deeds owned by the government nonprofit Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. to the Land Bank, a deposit that made the bank able to carry out its mission: assemble vacant properties for development. And more deposits are on the way. An additional 500 PHDC deeds are expected to be transferred by the end of the year, and on Thursday, City Council is expected to approve the transfer to the bank of 833 city-owned properties.
November 26, 2015 |
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney announced another round of administrative appointments Tuesday, including some of his former City Council staffers and a reshuffling of top Nutter administration aides. Jim Engler, a Kenney campaign official and former Council staffer, will serve as deputy mayor for policy and legislation. Richard Lazer, also a Kenney campaign and Council staffer, will serve as deputy mayor for labor. Clarena Tolson, the current revenue commissioner, will serve as the deputy managing director for infrastructure and transportation.
November 5, 2015 |
Jim Kenney completed his journey from South Philadelphia to the threshold of the mayor's office Tuesday, propelled by hope for his city and an inclusive coalition. Now Mayor-elect Kenney must draw on his skills as a unifier to build a government that not only reflects the city but makes it better. The people the longtime councilman chooses to help him lead the city and his early policy initiatives will signal what Philadelphians can expect from their 99th mayor. They should certainly expect him to take dramatic steps to turn around Philadelphia's schools.
October 31, 2015 |
Responsible only to voters who hardly know of them, Philadelphia's city commissioners, sheriff, and register of wills are up for election Tuesday. These so-called row offices, which turn legitimate government functions into backward political jobs programs, are best understood as continuous campaigns for their own elimination. The three-member City Commission oversees elections, but its Democratic chairman, Anthony Clark, doesn't vote - or work - much. The other Democrat on the ballot, Lisa M. Deeley, is the party's choice to replace Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who failed to gather enough signatures to run in the primary.
August 11, 2015
IN URBAN AMERICA, vacant land and abandoned buildings offer a one-two punch to neighborhoods. They are both a symptom and a cause of decline. On a block where a few houses go empty, it sends a signal to potential buyers to be wary. That leads to more unsold houses, derelict properties that sometimes are torn down, tearing away at the fabric of a block. Pretty soon, the downward spiral accelerates. In Philadelphia, we're all too familiar with this cycle. We have an estimated 40,000 empty lots and vacant buildings, most of them in older, poorer neighborhoods that surround the city's core.
August 6, 2015 |
Philadelphia City Council members' power over land use leads to bad policy at best and a form of extortion at worst. Their abuse of their influence over development has figured into the charges against all six Council members convicted of crimes since 1981. The practice known as "councilmanic prerogative" gives the city's 10 district Council members ultimate sway over projects in their districts. Although the custom is not part of any law, city administrations and even reform-minded Council members have let it continue unchallenged in an effort to keep the political peace.
June 26, 2015 |
The city's auctioning of liens on tax-delinquent properties began Wednesday morning with what officials said was a quiet but promising start. More than 150 investors registered to participate in the online auction of 900-plus tax liens, all of which have a minimum bid requirement of the full delinquent property-tax bill plus interest. The liens are for property-tax bills that have gone unpaid for from two to 20 years. If successful, the sale of those liens could generate millions of dollars in city revenue.
June 25, 2015 |
A vacant Port Richmond lot fetched $120,000 at a recent city auction. The Sheriff's Office has slightly picked up the sluggish pace of delinquent property sales. City Council is considering making a quick buck on a tax-lien sale, while the Nutter administration plans to sell 1,400 liens this month. Meanwhile, a businessman who wants to buy lots to expand is lost in Philadelphia's property maze. These disjointed events, and many more across a variety of city agencies and offices, are occurring without much forethought or consideration of the bigger picture.
January 25, 2015
ISSUE | CITYSCAPE Target all areas Joel Naroff's contention that the new Philadelphia Land Bank's work should be concentrated in limited areas misses the mark ("A targeted approach to urban renewal," Jan 18). The land bank must benefit every neighborhood, using strategies targeted to specific conditions in each. For some neighborhoods, side yards and development on individual lots are key. For others with stronger markets, assembling parcels for market-rate, mixed-use, or affordable housing will make more sense.