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More Than 500 Show Up To PHA's First Auction

Posted on Nov 29 in Philly Newsby PrintText Resizer Text Resizer

Article From: www.philly.com

By: Vernon Clark

The ballroom at the Westin Hotel in Center City was abuzz Wednesday as the Philadelphia Housing Authority held its first auction of houses, lots, and other real estate.

Amid the auctioneer’s rapid-fire cadence, more than 500 people – including real estate speculators and couples and individuals looking for starter homes – sat in rows under crystal chandeliers. Dressed casually, most in blue jeans, potential bidders tried to keep up with the fast-paced action.

Alon Glasberg, 27, president of a real estate investment company, clutched his blue bidder card and said he was interested in some good properties.

“I’m looking to go after a few,” Glasberg said, including an apartment building and a single family house in Fairmount.

PHA put more than 400 houses, lots, and other properties up for auction. Some were sold individually; many others were sold in packages of two to 25.

None of the properties are in move-in condition, said Max Spann Jr. of the Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co., which conducted the auction.

Michael Kelly, executive director of the housing authority, said the auction was an aggressive “fighting-blight program” designed to move properties into private hands.

Kelly said the purpose was about “how do we get more property on our rent rolls? How do we reduce the crime in our neighborhoods? And how do we bring in valuable funding to PHA at a time when there is federal disinvestment?”

Winning bidders must develop the properties within five years or the sites will revert to PHA.

Kelly said the bundles were used to combine properties in higher-market areas with those in lower-market areas.

“Without that concern, the lower-market parcels won’t be picked up,” Kelly said. “This was a very conscious effort on our part.”

Glasberg smiled and raised his bidder card for a property in the 1500 block of Green Street in the Spring Garden area. When the bidding rose above $160,000, he lowered his card, and the property went for more than twice that price.

“Going once, $385,000, going twice. Sold!” the auctioneer shouted.

Damon K. Roberts, a real estate lawyer and former City Council candidate who had been with PHA, was walking among the crowd, offering his services to potential buyers.

“This is an exciting time,” Roberts said. “There are almost 40,000 vacant and abandoned properties in Philadelphia. This shows there is great excitement about people purchasing in the city.”

Rahil Raza smiled broadly after winning a property in the 1500 block of Brown Street, also in Spring Garden, with a bid of $180,000.

“We’re really glad to be here,” he said. “Me and my brother have a real estate investment business in Point Breeze. We wanted to branch out, so we found this beautiful property in the Art Museum area, and we decided to go for it.”

Kelly said PHA had never conducted such a sale. “The beauty of this is that we’re investing in the private sector and the nonprofit sector to reinvest,” he said.

Asked about people seeking homes for themselves at the auction, Kelly said, “I think the idea that investing at that level is real important because it shows that folks will take a strong concern and interest in not only rebuilding a property but maintaining it well into the future.”

Kelly said there was concern that smaller investors would be unable to participate with the competitive real estate investors.

“We’re going to have an auction specifically to address that concern and that need,” he said. He said PHA would hold an auction of about 100 individual properties on Dec. 7 at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St.

“We’re looking forward to learning any lessons we learn today as we go toward the next auction,” Kelly said.

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