A Pox On Our Town
A plague has descended on Pottstown. Its symptoms can be tracked by “For Sale” signs whose lettering is fading from being posted so very long. This type of a malady take a long time to become a full blown plague which has or will touch all property owners in the town.
For example: Up my street an elderly widow recently passed away and her estate just put her house up for sale. They listed the well appointed house with a new roof, a large rear sunroom, three bedrooms, on a pleasant lot in the North End for $129,900.00. I imagine that’s close to the appraised value. But, when the sales agent was asked by me, “What would this house be listed for if it were situated in Limerick or Collegeville?” His reply was, “Up to, maybe, $100,000.00 more.” “Why?” I asked.
He gave me that puzzled look while telling me about the ills of properties with Pottstown addresses. School tax was the biggest factor, then the reputation of the town, on and he went with negatives even though he is an investor in rental properties here himself. The only way to make out owning a property in Pottstown, he advised, was to be a landlord.
We have lived in our home since 1974 which is 38 years. We’ve raised three children here. I had hoped to die while still living here. One time our house was worth upwards to $200,000.00 but is now less than three quarters that, probably much less. It’s not the weight of the bales of straw which broke the camel’s back but it was the weight of the final strand of straw which did the camel in when added to the load.
It is impossible to be on a limited retirement income and still own a home in Pottstown. The power to tax property is the virus propelling the plague which has demeaned our town.
Kind of like the feelings those in the 1940′s European ghettos had when they were afraid to speak out as the Gestapo rounded up certain groups to be shipped off to concentration camps. Finally, then, they came for those who had remained silent and as they were being herded away they looked around for someone to speak on their behalf and, low and behold, no one else was left to speak for them.
Our State Legislators have, in my mind, failed us. As a whole, they slop at the trough of special interests pandering to the desires of those who profit from inaction, the status quo. For too long, we, including me, have been silent while those who did speak out were marginalized and silenced. The field of grain is planted that will grow the stalks which could be that last straw which could break your back just like mine is fractured.
Who speaks for us now? Best you raise your voices loudly and clearly while you still can. Next they will be coming for you!
Ronald C. Downie
HARRISBURG, PA – The House Finance Committee today wrangled with a controversial idea — eliminating school property taxes and replacing the money with higher state personal income taxes and higher state sales taxes.
Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, said property taxes on residential and commercial buildings are a major burden for many owners, especially senior citizens on fixed incomes.
“Even when the mortgage on a house is paid off, the owner still has to ‘rent’ it from the government by paying school property taxes, and that isn’t fair,” he said. Some owners have lost their homes when they were unable to pay rising property taxes, he added.
When Buck Harris and his partner, Mike, bought a 145-year-old Italianate house to restore adjacent to Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood two decades ago, the neighborhood ambience included drug shootings and corner prostitutes.
“It was a war zone,” Harris says. “The neighborhood was in dramatic decline at the time. It was known as where you go to get heroin.”
Now, as Harris and other intrepid homeowners have gobbled up the vacant and foreclosed lots surrounding their houses over the years and worked to wipe out drug-related crime, the area has been transformed. Many of the nearly block-long lots, or “blots,” they have created look as if they were lifted from a verdant suburb, with mature trees and a wide expanse of lawn.
Harris’ neighborhood is just one example of how enterprising homeowners are changing the landscape in many depopulated cities, bringing the look of spacious suburbs to abandoned urban neighborhoods.
Read more: http://realestate.msn.com/inner-city-suburbs
Norristown Borough Council took a giant step into the light Tuesday evening. The council unanimously voted to end multi-family apartment conversions for single-family homes! BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The measure does allow for mixed-use meaning commercial use on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.
Council has wisely decided to stop the madness. By curbing the carving up of single-family homes into high density apartments, Norristown is demonstrating their desire to attract homeowners and shore up their tax base.
This is a big step in the right direction.
We applaud Norristown Borough Council for walking the talk!
See my recent report on the Pottstown Shade Tree Commission and Trees Inc. in the Pottstown Herald.