Tenants rally for better living conditions in Frankford

According to a 2021 PEW report, only 7% of the city's rental units are inspected each year.

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Tenants rally for better living conditions in Frankford
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According to a 2021 PEW report, only 7% of the city's rental units are inspected each year. A Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report notes that 40% of rental properties need repairs.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A group of tenants in Philadelphia are calling on the city and their landlords to grant them healthier living conditions. Renters United Philadelphia, or RUP, held a rally Saturday in Frankford to shed light on the issue.

"These are the steps," said Shanika Buie, showing the crumbling stairs leading to her home. "I'm in the middle of packing because I have to be out of here."

The dangerous condition of her home doesn't stop at the front door.

"They no longer make these ceilings anymore so they never came back to patch it up," she said pointing to a gaping hole in her dining room ceiling. "These are the posterboards I use to cover it up so no one can see what my house looks like."

Buie's is one of the thousands of Philadelphia rental properties in need of repairs.

"Fight, fight, fight, housing is a human right," members of RUP chanted in front of another Frankford home that needs to be repaired. The group wants the city to hold landlords accountable.

"We want to see the city's system of inspections changed from a complaint-based one to a proactive one where in order to rent, landlords actually need to get an inspection in the first place," said Ariel Morales, a tenant organizer with the group.

According to a 2021 PEW report, only 7% of the city's rental units are inspected each year. A Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report notes that 40% of rental properties need repairs.

RUP argues that this has resulted in unsafe living conditions for a lot of Philadelphians.

The city's director of communications responded to the findings saying, "We recognize and acknowledge the issues raised by Renters United Philadelphia (RUP). L&I currently balances utilizing limited financial and operational resources where they are most needed: properties where occupants have identified an issue, and owners are unresponsive to tenants' concerns," said Kevin Lessard. "Yearly inspection of all rental units by the City is not practical for several reasons, including that the city has far too many units to make this feasible. This would also require a sizeable increase in personnel both in the City's L&I and Law Departments-potentially several million additional dollars a year for the increased personnel and litigation costs."

Buie says she's leaving her home for the safety of her kids.

"She has asthma, I have asthma, and I know we can't be living in a condition like this with mold," she said.

Action News reached out to the landlords who several protesters rent from about the condition of the homes they manage, but we were told no comment.