Real estate agents and landlords want the removal of proposed Act 47 measures that affect New Castle properties.
They threatened legal action and predicted dire consequences for the city’s already frail housing market during yesterday afternoon’s public hearing on the Act 47 coordinator’s three-year exit plan in a packed council chambers.
The 50-minute session featured eight speakers with City Council and Act 47 team also addressing the crowd of more than 40-plus people. James Mims and Joseph Betters represented the landlords’ interests, while Patrick Russell of Howard Hanna Real Estate gave his insight as a real estate agent. Lawrence County Board of Realtors representative Denise Johnson, current president, and Joseph Carofino, past president, spoke during the hearing.
Mims questioned the constitutionality of inspection fees and Act 121 repairs the exit plan is recommending.
“I’d like to know like what type of research was done.” Mims said to the Act 47 team of Joel L. Lennen, Gordon Mann and Vieen Leung.
“Right now, the rental program can not be allowed. It’s illegal for one thing. Rental licensing and inspection requirements are unconstitutional. That was put down by the federal courts.”
He also asked about the rights of landlords.
“I keep reading in there that we want to do this great quality of life for the residents. Do we want to do the same for the landlords and the owners? Do we want to we want to protect their rights as landowners and taxpayers. What do you want to do? Push the landlords out, and then let all the houses go to tax repositories and then nobody pays taxes all.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Johnson said her organization would be watching that New Castle’s action comply with the law.
“We’ll be watching.”
Speaking later in the meeting, Councilman Richard Beshero criticized the city’s slumlords.
“Don’t act like you didn’t contribute to the downfall of the city,” he said. “So you want to get a lawyer. Get a battery of lawyers to contest (the) plan because guess what, we have nothing to lose, you guys.”
Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Elisco and David Richards, general manager of the New Castle Area Transit Authority, asked for the reinsertion of city dollars into the transportation program.
“We don’t be we want to be the only community without public transit,” Richards said. “This is a quality of life issue as well as an economic (one).
He said the Act 47 plan shows a net fiscal impact of $101,000 on the city’s behalf, but do not include roughly $50,000 in taxes received by the city.
“It is truly $50,000,” he said. “Do you want to gamble on $6 million in federal and state grants over the $50,000 issue. Don’t get me wrong, $50,000 a lot of money, but so is $6 million. Without any local match, we are out of business.”
Elisco called transit the “elephant in the room. ... (If) I am the mayor ... I will not gamble the 50 or 55 jobs that are lost, and I will not gamble losing mass transit in this county.”
Ed Fosnaught, representing the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Office, spoke on behalf of the department.
The Act 47 team must have a revised plan — if any revisions will be made — by July 19.
(Councilman Richard Beshero's comments on slumlords begins around the 31:00 mark.)