Up in Pottstown (that’s in MontCo for you folks who don’t know what lies beyond the City’s limits) is a blightfighter who runs Golden Cockroach, an activist fighting against substandard rental living conditions in rental apartments, vacancy and urban (yes, urban!) blight up in Pottstown.
A boro of only 22,000 people, Pottstown occupies a small 5 square mile area of the western corner of Montgomery County, bested by Norristown and Conshohocken in urban density. Most of the town is middle income at the high end and lower end working class. As an older PA boro with an industrial past, it has its share of rusty buildings and older housing stock. Ranchers on large plots are few. Twin porchfront rowhomes with postage stamp front yards, many.
Since the housing bubble burst 5 years ago Pottstown has seen an increase in cash buyer investors seeking to grab deeds and insert renters into properties as has happened in other PA towns like Bensalem where subprime mortgages existed. Many of those investors are absentee, maintenance is less than spectacular, and residents are worried that if left unchecked, and combined with urban-industrial decay within the town, that could put Pottstown’s viability as a desirable place to live under fire if quality of life worsens. No one wants to see Pottstown decay into Chester or see its tax base erode or flee.
As reported in The Mercury, Pottstown has a new proposal before the town council to convert a furniture warehouse into 43 “loft” apartments. As a tax-credit fueled development with an “arts” twist to it in its proposal, it’s leaving questions in the town council as to what is “artsy” about the development. Will hipsters be moving in and Instagramming photos of Pottstown sometime in the future?
Probably not. Housing Visions, based in Syracuse, NY is the developer and residents believe the arts and historical mentions in the project are simply being used to invoke access to particular tax credits and also confuse residents. Unlike previous projects to build tax-credit senior apartments in Pottstown, this project only rides on low income and no other hard qualifiers. Residents see this as a backdoor to warehouse more low income apartments on top of privately-owned low income rental homes which already exist in the town.
That has residents wondering if the project is simply to warehouse 43 low income renters into the building, walk away from it, and leave the boro of Pottstown to deal with any problems that may result. HousingVisions says they are committed to being landlords over the property for 30 years. But the developer has only existed for 20 years. Plus: Even with subsidies to construct housing units, it’s hard to pay for insurance and bonding, maintenance, property management over a long period of time with only low income rentals as your source of revenue. HousingVisions has not explained how it would make the project sustainable over time.