American City and County Magazine selects L&I as one of Six Programs Nationwide to Win the “America’s Crown Communities” Award
Philadelphia, February 2, 2012 – The Department of Licenses and Inspections’ (L&I) vacant property management strategy won the America’s Crown Communities Award from the American City and County Magazine for excellence in local government. The six winners for 2011 were selected based on the ability to achieve impressive results in addressing issues such as environmental conservation, infrastructure improvements, succession planning and economic development. The L&I initiative seeks to better hold private owners accountable for the maintenance of their vacant property by incenting owners to repair or sell their properties, thereby improving the neighborhood in accordance with the vision of residents and community groups.
“I am proud that the Department of Licenses and Inspections has been selected for this tremendous national honor,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “I commend Commissioner Fran Burns and the entire Department not only for their work to better hold the owners of vacant property accountable, but for all of their efforts to better serve the businesses and residents of Philadelphia. Under Commissioner Burns’ leadership, the Department has drastically reduced licensing burdens for businesses, improved license and permit issuance times, and began proactive inspections of rental properties.”
Commissioner Burns said, “I am pleased that the America’s Crown Communities Award recognizes the steps that the Department and our City agency partners have taken in addressing the issue of privately owned vacant structures. While the issue of vacant land is multifaceted and not solvable by any one program, our vacant strategy makes it clear that we and our committed community partners will not tolerate absentee property owners bringing down our neighborhoods anymore. If you own vacant land in the City of Philadelphia, you need to take care of it.”
The vacant property management strategy uses a three-pronged approach:
Focus on Finding the Owners: A team of dedicated researchers is culling several databases to find good names and addresses for the owners of vacant properties.
New Enforcement Measures: The City is enforcing the “doors and windows” ordinance, which allows L&I to ask the court to fine owners $300 per day per opening that is not covered with a functional door or window. Properties in violation of this ordinance are posted with a bright pink poster. State Act 90, sponsored by Rep. John Taylor allows the Department to ask the court to attach these potentially high dollar fines to the owner’s personal property. The Department can also leverage these fines to bring the property to sheriff sale.
Dedicated Court Time: L&I and the Law Department have been working with Judge Bradley Moss to have dedicated days to hear vacant cases.
To date the Department has achieved high compliance rates for those cited in this program. Owners cited for not having a rental license complied 56% of the time and more than 25% of those cited for not having operable doors and windows and have made repairs. Through efforts so far, the Department will collect more than $300,000 in license and permit fees, fines, and unpaid taxes.
American City & County has been the voice of state and local governments since 1909. The magazine serves a nationwide audience of city, county and state officials who are charged with developing and implementing local government policy, programs, and projects. American City & County is published monthly by Penton. For more information, visit http://demo.americancityandcounty.com/administration/americas-crown-communities-2011