Northeast Times

The eyesore next door

The blighted prop­erty on the 3400 Block of Ed­ge­mont St., PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JAN­INE BOSANCIC

The River Wards, like many parts of Phil­adelphia, are un­for­tu­nately plagued by blighted land and prop­er­ties. Thank­fully, though, those neigh­bor­hoods are also full of neigh­bors work­ing to change things. With this story, Star be­gins a new series, “The Blight Fight.”

Jan­ine Bosancic has lived on the 3400 block of Ed­ge­mont Street for more than 14 years, and for the past few, has lived next door to a fall­ing-down, tax-de­lin­quent, blighted prop­erty.

So she and her hus­band de­cided to do something about it.

“We saw an op­por­tun­ity to im­prove in a neigh­bor­hood we have known and loved for our whole life,” she said.

More than five years ago, an eld­erly man who had been liv­ing in the house be­fore mov­ing in­to a nurs­ing home passed away, and no fam­ily mem­bers claimed any of his be­long­ings or shut his util­it­ies off. The house even­tu­ally owed $8,000 in back taxes, and all the while, it fell in­to dis­repair, right next to Bosancic’s own home.

“His fam­ily didn’t want any­thing to do with it…the city of Phil­adelphia, it wasn’t on their pri­or­ity list, which is why neigh­bor­hoods fall apart,” she said.

She said the man that had owned the house since the 1940s had nev­er re­paired the house, and the roof was cav­ing in and the front porch was fall­ing off.

“We had plans to move out of the neigh­bor­hood and had no idea how we’d be able to sell our house with such an eye­sore next door,” she said.

So she reached out to State Rep. (R-177th dist.) John Taylor’s of­fice for help. Bosancic said she hoped to pass it through sher­iff’s sale to buy it, and Taylor’s of­fice as­signed her to a De­part­ment of Pub­lic Wel­fare at­tor­ney, who was charged with set­ting up mul­tiple es­tates. Over two years, she didn’t see much de­vel­op­ment on the case.

Dur­ing that time, Bosancic said, squat­ters broke in­to the prop­erty in Au­gust of 2011, claim­ing they bought it through sher­iff’s sale.

“We did everything in our power, we went and boarded up the whole house, he still went in,” she said. “He [was bold] like you wouldn’t be­lieve. We were con­stantly on watch.”

The squat­ters were ar­res­ted twice. One, Bosancic said, was in­tend­ing to steal the deed to the house.

Fol­low­ing Bosancic and her hus­band’s di­li­gence and the squat­ters’ ar­rests, Bosancic said she and her at­tor­ney really tried to step up in tak­ing own­er­ship of the house so that Bosancic could turn it around.

Since then, she and her hus­band had been wait­ing for the day of the sale, which of­fi­cially came on Jan. 22.

Now, she said she’s thrilled. Fu­ture plans for the prop­erty, she said, are still up in the air. After they fix it up, they might sell it, or rent it out.

“I’ve nev­er been more ex­cited, be­cause it’s just been such a jour­ney to get here,” she said. “I can’t wait to re­store it to its full po­ten­tial.” 

She said her hus­band, James, works in con­struc­tion, and her fath­er has ex­per­i­ence fix­ing and re­hab­bing houses, so turn­ing the house around is something of a fam­ily pro­ject.

Marc Collazzo, dis­trict of­fice man­ager for State Rep. Taylor, said that as part of The Con­ser­vat­or­ship Act —Act 135 — es­tates were opened for all pos­sible heirs by us­ing a pro­vi­sion in the state es­tates code that al­lows the ap­point of an ad­min­is­trat­or of “any fit per­son.” In this case, he said, any fit per­son can go to court and es­sen­tially say, “ap­point me” as the ad­min­is­trat­or of any es­tate.

The of­fice also worked, he said, to have an at­tor­ney ap­poin­ted for five dif­fer­ent es­tates, and now all li­ens and de­lin­quent taxes are paid off.

Bosancic said that Taylor has a big push to keep blighted prop­er­ties at bay.

“John Taylor’s of­fice was fant­ast­ic,” she said.

Collazzo said the prop­erty on Bosancic’s block was already on his “list” — he works with the city’s of­fice of Li­censes and In­spec­tions to get houses like these cleaned up, and Taylor’s le­gis­la­tion does in­deed in­clude giv­ing va­cant prop­er­ties pro­duct­ive use.

His job in the pro­cess, he said, was to help make sure the prop­erty was sealed up and guide Bosancic through the pro­cess of buy­ing the prop­erty.

“I give her and her hus­band a lot of cred­it,” he said. “Of­ten­times, what will hap­pen is we’ll get the calls and we’ll get it as se­cured as we can, but they [Bosancic and her hus­band] se­cured it at their own time and ex­pense.”

Call­ing her a “bull­dog,” Collazzo said Bosancic’s situ­ation is a real suc­cess story from be­gin­ning to end.

State Rep. Taylor agreed.

“It’s just one ex­ample of the kind of thing we’re try­ing to do,” he said. “The im­pact of one [bad] house on a good block is very im­port­ant to keep res­id­ents there and for the prop­erty val­ues on the neigh­bor­hood.”

He said houses like the one Bosancic now owns are mag­nets for van­dal­ism and vag­rants.

The Act 135 meth­od, he said, is one of the tools his of­fice has tried to help de­vel­op along with oth­er parts of the city.

On his web­site, www.reptaylor.com, Taylor’s staff has in­cluded a “Va­cant Prop­erty Up­date,” where prop­er­ties lis­ted are “a sum­mary of the ac­tions taken by State Rep­res­ent­at­ive John Taylor, with the help of the com­munity, to ad­dress blighted prop­er­ties throughout the dis­trict.” That page can be found at www.reptaylor.com/va­cant_­prop­erty.as­px.

Res­id­ents of the dis­trict can call Taylor’s of­fice to re­port such de­lin­quent or va­cant prop­er­ties, just like Bosancic did. There are, Taylor said, many dif­fer­ent meth­ods of solv­ing de­lin­quent or blighted prop­erty prob­lems.

“We solve the prob­lems one by one,” he said. “There’s no ‘one size fits all’ in terms of solu­tions.”

State Rep. John Taylor’s of­fice is loc­ated at 2901 E. Thompson St., call 215-425-0901.

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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