Hank talks to Philadelphia councilman about city's squatting issue

- Councilman Al Taubenberger is trying to get the conversation started to address this illegal new generation squatting that’s going on in the city.

It’s criminal trespass, first of all. And squatters often forge lease documents, something Taubenberger says police aren’t typically equipped to decipher. He says Council’s got to give them the tools. “We can, and we must,” said the Councilman before his presentation, “Because we’re here to protect the public and if the public is having difficulty with their property, in maintaining ownership thereof, possession of it is the right thing, then we have to do something about it to make it easier for law enforcement to uphold the law.”

Taubenberger says the first step is to hold hearings. And when there’s consensus, make some law. And that includes help from Harrisburg if necessary.

This type of squatting often occurs during housing transitions, such as renovation or a change in tenants. I drove through South Philly looking for stories from contractors, and they weren’t hard to find. Joe Sullivan had finished some concrete patchwork, and he says squatters are an ugly part of the job. “We check it out, see what we’ve got to do,” he says, smoking a cigarette. “And we go in… we see people sleeping on the floors and everything. And we have to get them out of there so we can do our work.”

Vinny Zanier and his crew from Chris Lord Contractors say squatters disrupted a recent job, and it gets expensive. “Before we put the windows in, they broke in every single night… materials were stolen from the job… which then, in turn, you lose two hours a day.”   

Taubenberger says he’s trying, but the wheels of progress turn slowly. Homelessness is a problem – everybody ought to have a roof. But there’s fraud and dirty dealing going on. Nobody who works hard to own a home ought to have to put up with it. I’m Hank, and that’s my take.

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