The Importance Of Sharing Information On Abandoned And Vacant Properties

By Tracey Howarth, Pennsauken Township

Pennsauken Township has spent the better part of the last 14 months putting together a program aimed at getting the vacant and abandoned properties in town sold, rehabbed and occupied with permanent residents.

We’ve also spent countless hours studying, researching, and analyzing all the tools available to us to get our goal accomplished as quickly as possible with little to no expense to the Township. The results are a completely new set of ordinances, new partnerships, and an arsenal of tools to ensure that the Township not only has the benefit of all the current legal tools available, but also the tools to streamline this process and remove as many obstacles as possible.

The key to getting all of this done was the sharing of information: communicating between Township departments; working with our fire department and police; partnering with neighboring towns, the county, financial institutions, local contractors, lien holders, investors, and residents.

Information sharing isn’t always just about identifying where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. It’s also about resolving issues. How do we fix a problem? And what are our responsibilities as it relates to the tools we’ve put in place?

I often get questions like, “Why can’t the Township just do what needs to be done?” “Why can’t the Township just step in and fix it?” Or, “Why does it take so long to get something fixed?” It can give the perception that the Township isn’t doing anything about an issue. That could not be further from the truth.

The Township has the responsibility to act within the boundaries of the ordinances we have in place for everyone’s well being. Sometimes this means giving a property owner several business days to resolve an issue before we can step in. Other times, an action needs to be scheduled with one of our departments that won’t be able to address it until the following week. While it seems like the Township may be sitting on its hands to address a problem, things are actually already in motion. It just takes time. We are sympathetic to the concerns of our residents; we are working as fast as we can to resolve issues with abandoned and vacant homes as soon as possible.

Information is meant to be shared in a constructive, factual, useful, and sometimes even educational manner. It’s unproductive and irresponsible to use it in any other manner. It’s the key to the success or failure of this program. If not used correctly, it will derail the main focus of the program and put us on a path to failure, which we all know is not an option.

There is a new way residents can help insure that we know about the abandoned or vacant properties in your neighborhood and to ask direct questions to the Township’s abandoned and vacant property department. We have developed a new form on our website for the sole purpose of reporting issues pertaining to vacant properties. Completed forms will be transmitted directly to us via e-mail. Not only will we gain information about issues we can begin to resolve, but we can also respond to you directly with updates and explanations.

You can find a link to this online form by visiting

Where Are We Now?

At the beginning of April, we streamlined our program and made one very big adjustment to our inspection process. Our inspectors now focus on safety, health and welfare issues only when inspecting a property. Since April 8, 2017, we have sold 158 properties. Since June of 2016, we have sold 379 properties.

Because of our partnership with Community Champions, we have been able to identify over 150 property maintenance companies associated with foreclosed properties, something we would not have had a year ago. And because we have identified these property maintenance companies, there has been an 80 percent reduction in the use of our Public Works Department’s resources on abandoned and vacant properties, freeing them up to work on other projects.

Since the beginning of the year, we have seen four very undesirable properties demolished at no expense to the Township. These were four of 16 properties Pennsauken identified as unsafe structures.

While we’re making progress, there still is a lot of work to do. We will continue to need your help to move forward.

I look forward to receiving the new online forms to learn about what’s going on in your neighborhood and how we can help.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at (856) 665-1000, ext. 145.

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