What to Know
- The City of Philadelphia conducted 290,000 inspections in 2018.
- The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) employs more than 1,500 inspectors.
- In 2016, L&I created an Audits and Investigations Unit to dig deeper into construction site compliance and contractor licenses.
A residential construction boom in Philadelphia is well into its second decade and long ago began reaching far beyond Center City.
In neighborhoods like Fishtown and Point Breeze, Queen Village and Mantua, developers have been remaking row homes by the hundreds.
"The city is in the midst of a development boom, which is great for the city except for the residents (who) are paying the price for it," Jen Romaniw told NBC10 in an interview. "Somebody is going to die."
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Romaniw and her family lost their ancestral row house on East Thompson Street in Fishtown when a contractor hired to demolish a row house next door ripped apart enough of the structure that her parents' house was destroyed too.
"We all kind of lost a chunk of ourselves when this fell," she said of her family, which had owned the house for more than 60 years.
After years of accidents and occasional tragedies, the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections is asking for more funding to strengthen its construction enforcement arm.
L&I officials want $2 million in new money in the 2019-2020 city budget for its Audits and Investigations Unit — to hire more inspectors and apply more stringent controls over permits and contractor licenses.
"There are always times when a contractor will go and do things beyond what they're approved to do," L&I Commissioner David Perri said in an interview. "We keep an eye out for that."
Still, there were 290,000 inspections conducted by the city last year.
The city points to license revocations increasing as a sign that enforcement is getting tighter.
In all of 2016 and 2017, two contractors had their licenses suspended or revoked. In 2018, the number increased to six. So far in 2019, one contractor has lost a license, and another three are being investigated.