Key community players came together on Thursday afternoon to discuss plans for a blighted property on E. Phil Ellena Street in Mt. Airy.
Community development corporation Mt. Airy USA has gained conservatorship of the long-abandoned property, allowing the group to rehabilitate the home and eventually, sell or rent it.
“This is the tipping for us not tolerating historically blighted properties and owners that basically attempt to abuse the system, who think that in the past we haven’t had a tool to rid our properties of this blight,” said State Rep. Cherelle Parker.
Revenue from the property will go towards paying back taxes and liens owed to the city. After that MAUSA will be paid back for time, labor and capital.
The message to negligent property owners is clear, according to Anuj Gupta, executive director of MAUSA. “It’s time to pay up or do something with your property,” he said.
The house on E. Phil Ellena Street is one of 40,000 other vacant properties like it throughout the city.
Department of Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams said the positive impact of refurbishing a vacant house has a trickle effect throughout a neighborhood, affecting everything from crime to the property value of the neighbor next door.
“When people want to try and move into the community, for safety they look at crime, and vacant properties certainly attract and contribute to that,” he said, “so it does have an economic impact but it also has a social impact.”
Jimmie Reed, owner of nearby Little Jimmie’s Bakery and Cafe, agreed. “It doesn’t matter what businesses you put in Mt. Airy,” he said. “If you don’t have the right homeowners in the community…it won’t survive.”
MAUSA is the first CDC in the city to successfully gain conservatorship of a vacant property through a state law passed in 2009. The group plans to petition to become conservator of at least five other properties in the area.
“Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods,” said Parker, “no matter what form we see [blight] in or how it presents itself in our communities we have to do our best to tackle it.”