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Righting the Blight? | Philadelphia City Paper

The remnants of a slum empire are up for grabs.

Evan M. Lopez

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In 2008, Bob Coyle, the now-infamous slumlord, walked away from millions of dollars in mortgages he'd taken out on a small empire of crumbling houses in Kensington and Port Richmond, leaving the local banks that'd loaned him the money sitting high and dry — and on top of more than 100 of Coyle's properties.

Among those properties was 3310 Argyle, a vacant shell that had sat neglected for years when Jamie Moffett moved in next door and watched as drug users went in and out of the abandoned house daily. Moffett — an acquaintance who first brought Coyle to this author's attention — had called Coyle repeatedly, demanding that he do something about the situation. When that didn't work, Moffett offered to buy the house, but was brushed off.

Not long after, the news came crashing down that Coyle had defaulted on more than $15 million in mortgages he'd taken out from local banks — loans that seem, especially now, to have been wildly disproportionate to the actual value of Coyle's junky inventory. But it was the height of the housing bubble, and the banks seemed more interested in having properties on their books than worrying about what they looked like — until, that is, the market crashed and Coyle defaulted, leaving the banks with only those houses to recoup their enormous debt. What's more, it turned out he had allegedly made false "rent-to-own" agreements with dozens of tenants, who had invested their hard-earned money into the houses for, it seemed, nothing.

The banks faced a dilemma: Normally, they'd foreclose on the properties and sell them at sheriff's sale, recouping their.....................

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