The reason you see people making all these illegal rental conversions in Allentown is that the rent is too high for a lot of people to afford their own apartments. If people could afford their own apartments, I don’t think they’d be trying to live in cramped conditions. It’s not like they enjoy that.
The solution must involve not just enforcing the existing zoning laws, but also figuring out how to bring down rents on the low end of the market. Why is this market failure happening? Why aren’t there enough options for people to lease low-rent apartments at a lower square footage? Why aren’t developers responding to a tight rental market by building more apartments? These are the issues city council needs to be focusing on.
The city can pull some investment in new multifamily buildings forward in time by raising their tax on assessed land values, and lowering their tax on building values. It would be an even bigger deal if the school district split their real estate tax, and matched the city’s millage rate spread. They also need to look at zeroing out minimum lot size requirements and height limits.