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House Collapse Shines Light On Philadelphia’s Problem With Unstable Abandoned Buildings

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House Collapse

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – From the front, 2166 North Franklin Street looks bad enough. But you have to walk around to the back to truly see what Fabricio Rodriguez and Emily Randle – who owns the home next door – have been dealing with: a neighboring house on the verge of collapse.

The house finally started to collapse early Monday sending bricks, wood beams and entire walls all over the backyard. 

“We were blown away,” Rodriguez said. “We were out here the night before, and this huge wall that came down could have come down at any second.  There was nothing that prompted the house to fall down – just gravity – so it’s very frightening.”

It’s a problem that some city officials admit is overwhelming. 

There are an estimated 70,000 abandoned properties in the city, but the Department of Licenses and Inspection tears down just 600 each year, less than one percent. A Philadelphia L&I spokesperson says it’s clearly difficult to prioritize which buildings are “imminently dangerous,” and tearing down vacant structures is not always the best solution to blight.

Randle, Rodriguez and the neighbor on the other side of 2166 North Franklin, Sandra Carter, say they have been filing complaints about the house for months, if not years. They are frustrated that it had to begin falling down before the city would tear it down.

“They kept saying that it’s not as dangerous as it looks,” said Randle.  “I’m really scared for the safety of my house.”

“There are a lot of abandoned properties,” Carter said. “But there should be some kind of priority when people’s lives are in jeopardy.”

L&I says it followed up the complaints and even put the home on its tear down list earlier this month after an inspector looked it over. But the demolition process takes time, in part so the city can bundle those projects together to save money. 

Rodriguez says even after the collapse on Monday, he had trouble getting an L&I crew to come out. It took a call to Councilman Bill Greenlee’s office for that to happen. 

Greenlee says it was clear something had to be done. 

“When pieces of it start falling down, that’s a clear sign that it’s not just a dangerous property, it is life threatening,” he said, adding that L&I probably needs more money for this work. “The question is: do we have it to give them?”

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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