Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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George Schaefer:

When the City of Philadelphia found itself with 8000 houses abandoned for taxes, it set up a program to get them back onto the tax rolls, and provide low-income housing as well. The idea was for the city to give the house or sell it at a low price to someone who would rehabilitate it and bring it into conformity with the building code. "Rehab and bring it up to code."

Unfortunately, the process required the owner to satisfy the Bureau of Licensing and Inspections, and that usually required a great emphasis on the washbasins. The process was as follows. A number of twenty dollar bills would be placed in an envelope and scotch taped underneath a wash basin. The inspector was asked to pay particular attention to the underside of the wash basins. As he left, he was asked if he found the washbasins to be satisfactory.

Well, reputable contractors mostly wouldn't touch this sort of thing. It was George's impression that new construction did not go through this process, but rather involved a licensed architect certifying that the code had been followed. Just why this process is less corrupt is not clear, but there may be reasons.

Originally published: Tuesday, October 30, 2018; most-recently modified: Monday, May 20, 2019