Up to date news on the happenings in Eddystone, PA. For such a small town, there's always BIG drama...inside and outside Borough Council Chambers.

Renters Are Residents Too

The nation’s housing market is in a crisis state and nowhere within Ridley School District reflects this more than Eddystone.  According to Zillow.com, 32 houses are for sale in our small town right now.  Over the last few months, 24 houses were sold.  Out of the 24 houses that were sold, only 7 were sold at or above market value.  The remaining 17 properties were sold at way below market prices.  Most of these are due to foreclosures which is understandable, considering the state that our country is in at the moment.  But some houses are being sold by landlords that just can’t meet the picky demands of the borough.
Over the years, the Borough has been extremely hard on landlords.  And I get it.  I do.  The basic idea is to keep the proverbial “slumlords” out and to potentially decrease what is known as Section 8 Housing.  ****Before I continue, let me clarify…I do NOT have anything against people who live in Section 8 housing.  Most people that I know that live in Section 8 homes are some of the nicest, cleanest, neatest people you’ll find anywhere.  Most of the landlords who own these properties are FAR from slumlords as they have to keep up with stringent codes created by HUD.  As a matter of fact, there are several Section 8 homes on my street and they look just like the homes that are owner occupied.  Contrary to popular belief, there are no neon signs pointing to the Section 8 Homes ;) ****  But because of the stigma of Section 8, the borough has taken the stance to be tough on landlords AND renters. 
I truly believe that the Borough officials think that they are protecting the people of Eddystone by having a super strict code enforcement, but let’s step back for a moment and look at the big picture.  Since the housing market tanked, the percentage of renters nationwide has risen.  Eddystone is no exception.  According to the 2010 census, 33% of Americans rent.  In Eddystone, 43% of our residents rent…That’s up 6% from the 2000 census.  That’s almost HALF of our friends and neighbors. 
It seems that lately, there is a surge in problems with landlords being able to obtain or keep Certificates of Occupancy.  Mostly because of long laundry lists of repairs that are being required by Code Enforcement, but also because they have to pay an annual fee to the borough in order to be able to rent out their property.   Paying a fee is normal in any township or borough.  The average in Pennsylvania is $25 per year per property. However, Eddystone charges $200 for the first property and $25 for each additional property.  The borough also insists on inspecting rental properties each and every time a tenant moves out.   One may expect this policy in Haverford or Marple where renters are only 15% of the population and the average household income is over $200K per year.  I mean, let’s face it.  Eddystone is full of hard working people but our average household income is only about $50K and again, almost half of our residents live in rental properties.  Without the inspections, the landlords cannot get a Certificate of Occupancy.  These issues are causing some of the investors to sell their properties because they are just tired of feeling harassed by the borough.  Some either bought the properties at deep discounted prices at an auction or inherited the properties from family members, so they will tend to sell at very low prices…another factor that is driving our home prices down.  The tenants in these properties are then scrambling to find housing.  Most try to stay in Eddystone because their kids attend Eddystone Elementary, or because of the benefit of Septa’s bus routes and Regional Rail or because of the close knit relationships we Eddystoners tend to have.  Not only do these unfortunate renters need to find somewhere else to live, they have the added burden of coming up with the first and last months’ rent and security deposit…that’s a big chunk of cash for most of us.

Take notice that this isn’t happening once or twice.  This happens frequently in Eddystone.  Is this a tactic to draw more homeowners into the borough?  If it is, the officials are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.  Because of the drastic decline in property values, more people are looking for Section 8 properties to purchase, the very thing that the Borough is trying to regulate.  Because of the poor housing market, many properties are sitting vacant.  The threat of neighborhood blight is imminent as the vacant property on the corner of 9th and Saville Ave. has a storm door that is hanging by a hinge and the burned out property in the middle of 9th Street still sits after 3 years with little repairs.  Is there a way our Borough can work with the landlords in a more productive manner?  Can Eddystone embrace its diversity and accept the residents that rent their homes, whether it’s out of necessity or choice?  By cutting the landlords some slack on minor issues, our Code Enforcement can directly impact residents in a positive manner.  I don’t mean overlooking mold growth or vermin infestation or a building that is structurally unsound.  I’m thinking more along the lines of reducing the rental property fees and only inspect the properties once a year instead of every time a tenant moves out.  Maybe there are contractors who are licensed within the Borough who can offer discounts if similar work is needed on multiple properties.  Those who rent within the community coach basketball and baseball, work in our schools, and are raising families with the rest of us.  Eddystoners have a history of taking care of their own.  This includes our renters.