'Rooming houses' pose problems across Philadelphia

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Rooming house fire highlights zoning issues: Vernon Odom reports on Action News at 5 p.m., April 12, 2018 (WPVI)

The Department of Licenses and Inspection declared 3851 North Park Avenue uninhabitable Thursday morning, in the wake of an overnight fire at the rooming house in Hunting Park.

The people who rented the rooms had to be rescued after climbing out on the roof to escape the flames. Fortunately, there were no casualties

One renter said he and his wife have lived in the home for three years along with an undetermined number of occupants.

The rooming house sits on a densely-populated residential street defying the city's zoning laws, according to L&I.

These types of dwellings pockmark low-income neighborhoods all across the city.

"If it was a rooming house, it did not have zoning to be a rooming house there," said Karen Guss, Department of Licenses and Inspection. "There actually are no residential areas in Philly where you can operate a rooming house."

L&I is still dealing with the fallout of a North Philadelphia fire that left four dead several weeks ago.

That rooming house was owned by a corporation called Granite Hill. It owns roughly 30 properties, many of which are used for unauthorized rooming houses.

L&I told Action News that 9 of the 30 properties did not have the proper zoning designations and they continue to investigate the rest.

"If indeed it turns out that there was not the proper smoke and fire safety equipment in there, It will be up to the DA to determine if criminal proceedings are appropriate," said Guss.

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