4,000 properties in Philadelphia deemed unsafe after City Controller's Office investigates

It’s been 11 years since the deadly Market Street collapse when six people were killed when a building being demolished fell onto a thrift store. 

That incident has led to many investigations of the Department of Licenses and Inspections over the years.

On Wednesday, the city reported its findings into their latest investigation. 

On a sunny afternoon, Iseia Williams has part of her Kensington Street blocked off to celebrate her son finishing up fifth grade. 

"We wanted to show him how proud of him we was, and we told him to invite all of his friends from his classroom to come over," said Iseia Williams, a Kensington Resident.

While Williams is proud of her son, she’s not too happy to see around her neighborhood a number of abandoned and unsafe buildings.   

"With the dirty lots and old homes that are around, people try to come around and squat and do different things. The more we stay involved and keep them away, the more it stays clean," said Williams. 

Which the city is pushing to get even more involved too.

The City’s Controllers Office conducted an investigation into the Department of Licenses and Inspections' ability to meet public safety measures regarding demolition and construction standards and imminently dangerous and unsafe building structures.

"There are approximately 120 imminently dangerous properties waiting for demolition or significant repairs and another 4,000 properties classified as unsafe," said Christy Brady, the Philadelphia City Controller.

The Controller’s investigation identified the following:

  • The average residential demolition costs upward of $30,000, but the city only recovers about 3% of that cost, leaving taxpayers to cover the millions of dollars spent handling dangerous properties.
  • The eCLIPSE database utilized for maintaining all properties does not designate the priority levels of structural deficiencies for demolition and cannot produce a complete listing of all imminently dangerous properties, which L&I manages through a separate tracking system.
  • Long court processing delays leave L&I inspectors unable to reinspect imminently dangerous properties every 10 days as required.

"This is not about pointing fingers, this is about working together to find solutions," said Brady. 

In response to the above findings, the City Controller’s Office developed the following recommendations:

  • Create an active recruitment program to hire additional inspectors.
  • Dedicate resources to implement a payment collection process to recover more demolition costs from private property owners.
  • Establish a tracking system within eCLIPSE that includes the stages of imminently dangerous properties, allowing inspectors to prioritize demolitions.
  • Collaborate with the courts to reduce delays and assist inspectors to complete follow-up inspections within the required 10-day timeframe.

Moves by the Controller’s Office and the Parker Administration that back in Kensington, Williams is happy to hear. 

"I definitely respect Parker and what she’s been doing lately. Slow process is better than no process and you got to start somewhere," said Williams.

The Controller’s Office says since the report L&I has already started trying to address the concerns in the report.