tenants block traffic, protest Philadelphia Housing Authority FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 23:30:40 -0800 (PST)

FWD By Cynthia Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer


City Council targeted residents where they live yesterday with a flurry of
resolutions that would punish negligent landlords, loud tenants and
slovenly neighbors, and one resolution calling on the Philadelphia Housing
Authority to reconsider its decision to hire Carl Greene as executive

Greene is scheduled to start work on Feb. 23 but is already a lightning rod
for board when it hired Greene, the former head of the Detroit Housing
Commission. They say he is unfit to serve because he has been sued for
alleged sexual harassment and is insensitive to tenants. Greene has denied
the allegations.

Led by Virginia Wilks of Richard Allen Homes and Diane Gass of Norris
Apartments, both in North Philadelphia, about 50 tenants marched from PHA
headquarters at 2012 Chestnut St. to City Hall yesterday morning, blocking
traffic on the way. They were met at City Hall by sympathetic Council
members, who adopted the Greene resolution for them, 12-4.

"We want to be part of the process," Wilks said. "That's what we are
fighting for."

Council President John F. Street, a PHA board member and Greene supporter,
was among those voting against the nonbinding resolution.

While PHA tenants were expressing displeasure with their landlord, Street
and Councilmen James Kenney and Richard Mariano were proffering resolutions
to tighten controls on tenant and landlord behavior around the city.

A little out of step with his colleagues, Councilman Michael Nutter offered
a resolution that would exempt homeowners and buyers within the city from
the 3 percent real estate transfer tax. He said that he didn't know how
much the exemption would cost the city in lost revenue, but that it could
reduce home prices enough to persuade people to live in Philadelphia rather
than in the suburbs.

As promised several weeks ago, Kenney introduced a series of bills and
resolutions to regulate tenants and landlords in the federal Section 8 rent
subsidy program, which is run by the Housing Authority.

Kenney would stop the PHA from giving homeless families priority placement
in the subsidized apartments and force the authority to give tenants
classes in life skills.

He wants PHA to hire more Section 8 inspectors and broaden their powers.
Now, the inspectors can only look for housing code violations. Kenney wants
them to look for tenants who are rowdy and report families who have more
people living in their apartments than are listed on their leases. Those
with unreported tenants in their apartments could be evicted, Kenney said.

Another Kenney resolution would provide for the immediate eviction of a
Section 8 tenant convicted of a crime. Kenney said that measure would
shorten the sometimes lengthy eviction process. "The issue is, and always
has been, behavior," he said. "We live in a compact, urban setting. People
have to respect each other."

Street continued his share of work on "quality of life" issues by
introducing a resolution to establish a 17-member, volunteer Citizen
Complaint Commission. The commission would investigate complaints of
disorderly conduct, trash violations and loud parties. It would mediate, or
refer to city agencies, disputes and problems among residents anywhere in
the city.

Mariano wants to force all kinds of landlords to police their tenants. When
tenants or their guests make too much noise and landlords are aware that
they do, the landlords would pay the price, according to a bill Mariano
introduced yesterday. Landlords would pay a $100 fine the first time the
noise got too loud, $200 the second time and $300 every time after that.

Kenney proposed revoking a landlord's city rental license if a landlord
doesn't evict a noisy tenant.

Kenney and others pushing a "quality of life" agenda can expect opposition
from Councilman Angel Ortiz, who said the bills treated poor tenants with a
double standard. "Just because you're in Section 8 does not mean the laws
of this country do not protect you," Ortiz said.

Mayor Rendell last month came up with his Section 8 reform ideas, including
penalties for landlords who charge high rents for Section 8 units, a
permanent ban on landlords and tenants who violate housing regulations, an
end to the practice of giving homeless families priority, and drug and
alcohol counseling for tenants.


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