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Lehigh Valley

Activists say rental conditions in Allentown not improving

The mayor says the city is making process, but improving rentals is a slow process

Activists say rental conditions in Allentown not improving

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Last summer, 69 News ran several stories on improvements that were or were not being made to neighborhoods outside Allentown's booming downtown.

So is progress being made to the city's rental properties as Center City continues to develop?

"We get calls daily of people crying to us on the phone," Julian Kern said.

The mission of community activists Kern and Ken Heffentrager is to track down and bring to light blight and rundown rental conditions in Allentown. They do not think rental conditions have improved much over the past year.

The pair, who run a Facebook advocacy page, say they'd like to see the city implement more programs to cut down on so called slumlords. One such idea is a property point system and lowering the five-year rental inspection cycle.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said a foreclosure tracking data base, which has more than 2,400 properties, is a newer example the city is using to cut down on blight.

"Contacting the banks to lean on those properties and asking them to be responsible during the foreclosure process," the mayor said.

Pawlowski said the city uses over a dozen programs and techniques to hold property owners responsible. Kern sad one option the city doesn't use is Act 90, which empowers cities to take legal action against absentee property owners.

But Pawlowski said it's not that simple and the process takes time.

"You have to go through a magistrate and have to find that person guilty and remain guilty for six months." Pawlowski explained.

Kern referenced a rental inspection report that is more than 10 years old. He said for things to change the city must become more diligent. Kern also suggested a rental relocation program.

If a landlord is tagged and the renter has to move, the landlord would pay the cost. It's an idea the city said it will look into.

City officials say a better landlord program will start this summer and stressed the city is doing everything it can to improve neighborhood conditions.

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