Samantha Melamed on Philly Councilman Bobby Henon’s apparently successful shaming strategy for nuisance property owners:
Councilman Henon says he’s been working with both the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Licenses and Inspections, as well as studying best practices from across the country and what’s possible under current state law, to craft a plan. He’s also creating a problem property advisory council in his district, and working to improve collaboration between the Streets Department, L&I and police to improve tracking of complaints associated with given properties across departments. And he says he plans to call more problem landlords before Council to explain themselves: The last time he did so, the councilmanic shaming worked, he says, and two landlords with some 800 properties between them cleaned up their properties and paid much of their back taxes. “This is going to be an open-ended hearing where I can bring people in as needed.”
As I was saying to some people last night on the Twitters, I think naming and shaming is an underrated strategy. Easton, PA has been having some success with this approach, and while they certainly have many fewer blighted properties than Philly, the game theory behind it is sound, and the basic idea seems to be exportable to cities large and small:
First Easton released a list of the city’s 30 worst blighted properties. They then announced that they would initiate eminent domain proceedings against the properties if they didn’t see improvements after a specified time period. So far, they haven’t had to do anything, and the properties have been getting sold or cleaned up:
Once the city’s planners and vacant property board have given the buildings blighted status, the Easton Redevelopment Authority can begin the process of taking the properties by eminent domain.
However, a lot of owners have sold off their properties after the blight designation was handed down, said Mayor Sal Panto, allowing the city to avoid having to flip the buildings.
“We haven’t had to do that,” Panto said. “It’s been happening on its own.”