Skip to Content

News & Resources

How much longer can Philly dodge its vacant property problem? p2

3/17/2015 | Real Estate Blog

We are discussing the added emphasis Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed budget will place on building inspections. The proposal includes enough money for the Department of Licenses & Inspections to hire 43 new inspectors, as well as funds to increase staffing at departments that support L&I’s work. In part, this was the mayor’s response to a troubling report from the City Controller’s office about vacant properties in Philly.

In part, it was also a response to the increasingly frequent building collapses around the city. In just the past couple of weeks, a half dozen buildings have fallen down or suffered partial collapses. The good news is that no two-footed residents have died; the four-footed are not as lucky: At least one dog has perished.

It doesn’t appear that any of these buildings were included in the Controller’s list of the city’s top 20 dangerous properties — they were dangerous, but not on the brink of collapse. Aside from a winter marked by multiple freeze/thaw cycles and some significant rainfall, they came down without so much as a huff or a puff. There is little doubt about whether these buildings collapsed on their own or were somehow sabotaged — they jumped; they were not pushed.

As we said in our last post, the report recommended that L&I hire an additional 100 inspectors. It didn’t stop there. Other recommendations included:

  • Make unsafe, imminently dangerous and hazardous properties the highest priority in the department. Consistent monitoring is essential to keeping the public safe from harm.
  • Focus redevelopment efforts on the neighborhoods with the highest number of dangerous properties.
  • Cut license validity from one year to six months as a way to remind property owners more often of their responsibilities regarding maintenance.

We will wrap this up in our next post.

Sources:, “Three buildings collapsed on Saturday, weekly tally at 6,” William Bender, March 16, 2015

Office of the City Controller, “Vacant Properties Creating Neighborhood Nuisances,” January 2015