Periodically, comments from various timelines and pages on Facebook will be shared to this blog, with consent of the writers. At times, they will be posted without the author’s name to protect them from retaliation.
These are the experiences of residents struggling to make a life for themselves and their families in Pottstown.
The first story is a maddening commentary that greets new residents. As these incidents continue, how do officials expect that law abiding, contributing people will consider Pottstown a place they can call home? We are a small town of 22,000. These first-hand stories define what the borough has been allowed to become for the lack of competent, honest leadership.
March 27,2015 “I thought you might want to post my story just to let other in pottstown know. My boyfriend and I just moved into the townhomes in hanover square the beginning of March. On march 13 a black man in his 20s rang our door bell asking for money, saying he lived on south street and his mom was in the hospital and he needed money to get to her. I’m from lionville so I wasn’t completely sure how to react so I gave him 5 dollars thinking it would get him to leave and then he asked me if I had any weed or anything else. I told him no and that I needed to go back inside. He left and we thought it was done and over. We were having a house warming that night and when our last guests left around 12 30am we headed up to bed. At about 1245 our dog started growling and barking, we weren’t sure what was up so we went down into the living room and heard noises down by our front door. We turned on lights and then the door bell started ringing nonstop and banging at the door. It was the man that had been there asking for money earlier and a women that the man claimed was his sister telling us they needed to come inside and get warm. We called 911 and the police were there super quick and the man and woman ran. The man got away but the woman was arrested and was found to be drunk and with drugs on her. Needless to say it was pretty scary and maybe this story will help people be aware of this kind of situation.”
2BR apartment POSTED TO CRAIGSLIST/READING
“Don’t rent from a landlord Stephen Strickland!! He is a total slum lord!! He takes your money and doesn’t fix anything. If he does he sends his half fast workers and covers the job up!! Black fuzzy mold he just paints over to hide it!! He is a landlord who will put you and your family endanger!! He sounds good at first but is the worst mistake of your life!! He has properties on High st and at 305 N Evans st Pottstown PA 19464!! None of his properties are not inspected by the Borough of Pottstown!!”
Stephen has been on the Slumlord list since 2011 this is now 2015. I have led the horse to the water for over 4.5 years and yet, the Borough cannot make the connection to bring people like Stephen into compliance with codes and local ordinances or, they don’t want to do it.
This is a failure of leadership. No explanation, no plan, no vision for bringing the 2600+ unregistered rental units into compliance. The lack of communication and secrecy among staff and elected officals only serves to substantiate the ineptitude and malfeasance that is coming to light, in every aspect of local government.
If not a top priority, unregulated rental housing will continue to be a revenue stream for careless investors who directly enable criminal activities in the community. Law enforcement will be relegated to endless, ineffective efforts to gain the upper hand on crime and violence in Pottstown.
Today, while preparing this post, Evan Brandt published an article on his Digital Notebook blog. It hits at the very heart of why we struggle but doesn’t offer an explanation for the secrecy among governing bodies in Pottstown that has all but destroyed trust and confidence in staff and elected officials in the School District and the Borough.
It’s time, as has recently been said often on my blog, for Mark Flanders to go. He’s harmed and continues to harm this community, a fact hasn’t changed from his position as Police Chief to his position as Borough Manager – Mark Flanders is wrong for Pottstown.
According to the article in this week’s Mercury, by Evan Brandt, there’s no reason to celebrate their plan. Montgomery County will continue to use federal funds to segregate the poor, disabled, drug and alcohol addicted in one of two Montgomery County communities.
In 2009: “Westchester County entered into a landmark desegregation agreement on Monday that would compel it to create hundreds of houses and apartments for moderate-income people in overwhelmingly white communities and aggressively market them to nonwhites in Westchester and New York City.”
The MontCo representative mentioned the extra credits to developers of low-income housing in communities other than Ptown or Ntown, ie: mainline communities who have thoughtfully “zoned out” the poor.
The county, (perhaps blinded by the politics of looking after the best interests of wealthier communities and their own campaign pocketbooks), feels no obligation to “help” those communities understand the necessity of desegregation, despite the risks of defying HUD and the potential for a lawsuit, as the one that befell Westchester County, N.Y.
The Mercury article notes that “CDBG, (federal grants), is directed to Census tracts with a high percentage of low-income households and, in Pottstown, is most often used for infrastructure programs like curb cuts in sidewalks for handicapped access.”
Behind 482 N Charlotte St. on the alley on West St.
^^ What are the politics behind this flagrant waste of tax money and how often does it happen here?
It’s Pottstown and nobody is watching.
In this next, convoluted tale, the (mis) use? of Federal Tax Credits and CDBG grant monies raises a lot of questions.
A few weeks ago, a website was posted on Facebook. It’s a resource for people seeking low-income housing across the nation, updated 3/11/2015:
When you enter 19464 zip code a list with photo’s appears, click on the photo of 519, the following information is provided:
Steps – King Street
519 King St
Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 19464
COMMUNITY HOUSING SERVICES INC (closed it’s doors in Feb. 2013 according to this article)<clik
311 N Broad St
Lansdale, PA 19446
Steps – King Street is an affordable apartment community located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania which is located in Montgomery County. The property is located in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District served by Representative Ryan Costello (R), Senator Patrick Toomey (R) and Senator Robert Casey (D).
Steps – King Street is an apartment community containing 10 assisted rental units. The property contains 13 assisted bedrooms and based on typical apartment occupancy limits, Steps – King Street is home to not more than 22† persons when fully occupied.
Steps – King Street was developed and operates with Federal housing financing. The property utilizes 2 Federal housing programs to make rent affordable to lower income tenants. These programs are Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Community Development Block Grant.
^^The houses were back on my radar when I read about the financing sources.
In the summer of 2013: a neighbor on the 500 blk of King St. expressed her concern about the conditions of 519 & 523 King St. She said they had sat vacant for quite some time. A search on the web indicated that they were owned by ….. MontCo. I was astounded to think this is how the county would maintain their own properties, but again, it’s Pottstown, and that made it alright? It’s not how they maintain Bright Hope with it’s park-like setting.
Curiously, the state and county were clearly neglecting these Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,(LIHTC), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funded properties and, of course, so was the Borough – (nothing new there).
The neighbor recalled that MontCo aka: Community Housing Services sunk a ton of money into the interior of the homes which were occupied for a time then abandoned after the expenditure of the CDBG grant monies and the Tax Credits had been issued.
Shortly after I wrote that post, the community received basic information about the LIHTC, low-income housing tax credits, courtesy of Genesis and Housing Visions.
We learned that tax credits are an IRS program and the developers that receive the credits, via the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, are (ostensibly) strictly regulated and, among other requirements, they must own the property for 30 years, maintained to the highest standards, with no tax liens or other encumbrances.
If there are exceptions to these requirements I can’t find them because of…
The untenable depth of government red tape surrounding the LIHTC program. One more interesting fact – PA Housing Finance Agency, by all appearances, was not holding MontCo in compliance. Here is the link to PHFA’s Compliance Manual if you care to dive in.
It’s Pottstown and nobody is watching?
In 2013, I wanted to know more about these properties and the thought occurred to me:
‘We have two well-run affordable housing organizations who are very familiar with Pottstown. I’d wondered if the county could sell these homes to Genesis or the Mosaic Community Land Trust, either of whom would be responsible stewards of the properties.
However, before I got very far with that thought, the houses were recorded showing a new owner on Oct. 31, 2013. Montgomery County transferred them to a woman named Angela Sharpe, (married name Carrigan aka: Angela D. Carrigan).
Note: there were no FOR SALE signs or real estate listings indicating that these homes were for sale – ever – therefore no opportunity was given to the above mentioned housing organizations.
That raised a lot of questions in my mind.
The property records indicate that 523 King St. sold for $1 to Angela and 519 King St. sold to her for $0 raising further questions about the mysterious sale of these homes.
TAX LIENS: today, the property records indicate that both homes have liens but no civil suits have yet been filed. Clik on the link below vv type in “Sharpe Angela”…
Soon after the transfer, the trash was removed from the yards and exterior repairs were made – up to a point – nothing has been done that would make the homes attractive additions to the neighborhood.
I’d put all of this on my back burner, until…
Feb. 2014, when an old friend stopped by to say that he had rented a small apartment in one of the houses. He said it was nothing special but it would do.
Odd to him, he said, was the fact that Angela was/is associated with the clik>> Breakthrough Church Int’l. and, she was distributing questionnaires to prospective tenants about their “relationship with God.” (He brought me a copy which I will make available to anyone who would like to see it).
It was a theme that carried into her conversations with my friend, and other people, who’d inquired about renting from Angela in early 2014.
In fact, at about this same time in 2014, people at the Borough’s L & I Dept. were sending those in need of housing to Angela Sharpe.
Residential income property owners are bound to Fair Housing Law, that states:
“The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender; since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children.”
Whether or not Angela has denied housing to people based on their answers to the questionnaire is unknown. However, doing so would be in violation of the law under any circumstances.
Given that these properties were funded with taxpayer monies via Tax Credits and CDBG grants, these questionnaires and “prying” into the private, personal religious beliefs of prospective renters is cause for alarm.
It’s Pottstown and nobody is watching.
Angela “Carrington” owns a rental in Norristown which also has TAX LIENS. This fact alone should immediately disqualify her from obtaining building permits and licenses in the State of PA, including rental licenses. (Act 90 Neighborhood Blight and Reclamation), let alone she is benefiting from the CDBG grant money and Tax Credits.
Montgomery County Prothy <<clik for tax liens and other civil actions
Something doesn’t feel right about all of this. From the County’s abandonment and sale of the property (prior to the 30 year LITHC requirement), to the lack of PHFA’s oversight and…
The fact that MontCo has made no effort to implement and utilize PA Act 90 to gain control of blight and slum properties, (which exist primarily in Pottstown and Norristown), when this law was designed to provide the very protections and relief desperately needed in both communities.
I have a lot of questions of the 6th Congressional District politicians and I’ll update this post with their answers.
**Late last year, several representatives of Citizens Action Committee for Pottstown met with Senator Mensch about Act 90. He assured us that he would look into what it would take to implement the law in MontCo – the Committee has had no response from his office on this issue.
Angela Sharpe (Carrington) owns properties in both of her names. Her mailing address is listed on the property records as:
219 Steeplechase Drive New Wales, Pa Purchased in 2009 for $438,000 showing NO tax lien. In 2010 Complaint in Mortgage Foreclosure was filed against owners Shawn and Angela Carrington, the case was closed, this remains Angela’s mailing address on county records.
Angela appears to be living well, as you can see.
Below is the response that Angela Sharpe Carrington gave to a same sex couple in early 2014 when they contacted her about renting an apartment at 519/523 King St.
The couple was in the midst of an unresolved legal issue with their landlord that was being addressed by MontCo Legal Aid while they were in search of housing. They were completely upfront with Angela about the particulars of their legal problem but Angela made no inquiries about their character or their solvency, she ran no background checks, instead, she wrote…
“I prayed a lot after our conversation. I decided not to contact the Landlord because I really had no need to do so. I stand on the foundational principles of “good stewardship” which means that we must honor God through our actions. In the case where your landlord has been working with you to establish a payment plan based on the lease you agreed to, it’s only right that he be paid every penny of the $1100+ back rent because it’s what was agreed to by you. We will not accept anyone into our program with the abandonment of such debt. There are several other major discrepancies regarding the payment history, but you know the truth. Whatever the true case may be, it should be addressed wholly with the landlord and all applicable rents should be paid in full if they are due. After which time, we will consider anyone as a tenant in our program. I pray that God helps you to see that you must settle things there before moving on to the next place… how you deal with this situation has the power to affect your financial record in the future! Please resolve this situation — for you will be thanking me several years down the line for this powerful word of Christian advice. My Prayer is that God opens your heart with the power to receive this message in the true way it was lovingly sent. Wishing you the very best in the future. – Angela”
I hate to think that people in our community who most need safe, affordable housing, often seeking shelter – under duress – fearing homelessnes, are then subjected to Angela Sharpe’s invasive questions about their spirtual lives.
Then, they are either denied or accepted by her based solely on her relationship/consultation with her God resulting in the judgmental religiosity in the above correspondence.
I don’t approve of my tax dollars being used to support religious zealots or bigots and I fail to see how any of this can be construed as “foundational principles of good stewardship.”
Again, this is Pottstown and nobody is watching but…
I want to know if our Representatives,
Pennsylvania Housing Finance and Montgomery County approve?
This is an an excellent example of exterior doors I see on lots of rental properties in Pottstown.
CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN
This concept has been evolving since it’s inception in the 1960’s. Simplistically, it’s comprised of 4 elements:
Target Hardening, at the center of the chart, is where properties are made safe for their occupants with window locks, solid deadbolt exterior locks, and so forth, aka: DETERRENTS.
Combined with elements of good street lighting, natural surveillance and defining public from private spaces, CPTED is recognized by the Department of Justice as a vital deterrent to crime that goes hand in hand with Community Policing.
574 Walnut St. is a crime, figuratively speaking. In actuality, in its’ current condition – it is a place, a slum rental, waiting for crime to happen.
The tenant relays this information:
“The window was sealed shut. I was told that wasn’t a violation of fire code, took 6 months to have it “fixed” no other Windows were done, even though he <William Heuer> was cited for them all …oh and let’s not forget the deadbolt …12 months of complaining this is all he’s done since I’ve been here and, even though its been freezing out the borough gave him another 90 day extension after I asked for another inspection in January because he never fixed violations from inspection that was performed in July 2014″
Figuratively speaking ^^^ that is a crime of negligence on behalf of Heuer and the Borough.
574 Walnut St. on the County Property site
In actuality, this place needs to be off-limits to renters until it is made safe.
***I wouldn’t recommend renting this place in this condition, if you are looking for a place to live. It’s especially not safe for women, children or the elderly.
vvv check County Records for all of Heuer’s income property addresses vvv
In fact, you will want to beware of any properties owned by William Heuer. Check his colorful history of civil lawsuits and evictions. He’s been spreading joy and goodwill in Pottstown since the 1980’s.
In many towns across the nation, the Police Departments are responsible for Landlord Training, using the CSTED methodology, which you can read about here, on the DOJ’s COPS site, “Problem Solving Tools”
I suggest that by implementing the Better Landlord Program in Pottstown ASAP and, utilizing their expertise, the same objectives can be accomplished without adding to the work load of the police. However it’s accomplished…
Removing opportunities for crime will benefit the work of the PPD, the L & I and make our town a whole lot safer and more attractive to law abiding people.
The winter of 2014/2015 is nearly behind us now and I can say – with all certainty – that Hell Froze Over in Pottstown.
Most Pottstownians anticipate Spring with mixed emotions, (IMPENDING DOOM) a friend just labeled it. Crime becomes more evident on our streets and nuisance behaviors escalate.
I ask Council, after giving a nice reprieve to the landlords with safety inspections every 24 months ….
WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR? IMPLEMENT THE BETTER LANDLORD PROGRAM.