Stop the Phila. Automatic Sprinkler Bill 220299
March 23, 2023
Engineering and Economic Impact Studies Find Proposed Fire Sprinkler Mandate for Existing High-Rise Buildings in Philadelphia Costly and Unjustified
Studies highlight astronomical costs and minimal safety benefits of proposed bill 220299
BOTH STUDIES CAN BE FOUND HERE:
New engineering and economic impact studies commissioned by the Pennsylvania Apartment Association (PAA) have found no empirical evidence to support Philadelphia City Council's proposed change to "The Philadelphia Fire Code" (Bill 220299), requiring automatic fire sprinkler systems in existing high-rise buildings throughout the city.
The engineering report, conducted by Thriven Design, Inc., examines the cost impacts on apartment building and condominium owners, tenants, and public housing authorities and the safety data justifying or negating the need for imposing this new requirement.
The study concludes that there is no empirical fire safety data to justify this change in the current fire code. Strict enforcement of “The Philadelphia Fire Code” requirements would achieve the goal of City Council to protect and keep Philadelphia residents safe without needlessly imposing tens of thousands of dollars in retrofit costs on tenants and condominium owners, as well as potential tax increases that would be needed to pay for publicly funded housing and rental vouchers.
“The proposed fire sprinkler mandate would have a negative impact on the city's affordable housing stock, and would disproportionately impact those at low-income levels,” said Andre Del Valle, Vice President of Government Affairs at PAA. “We urge City Council to reject this proposal and focus on measures that will improve the safety of Philadelphians without creating unnecessary costs and displacements.”
It is estimated that the cost of installing sprinkler systems in existing high-rise apartment and condominium buildings would be approximately $35.00 per square foot, including the removal of materials such as lead paint and asbestos. On average, this will cost owners between $20,000 and $50,000 per unit. The retrofit costs would directly impact rental prices, with estimates of an increase of $200 to $400 per month, or $2,400 to $4,800 per year. These costs do not include the cost of ongoing maintenance, cleaning up after an accidental discharge, annual testing and certification, or the costs of tenant displacement/relocation during construction.
In addition to Thriven Design Inc.’s engineering study, Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) developed an economic impact study to determine the burden bill 220299 would place on Philadelphians.
ESI’s economic analysis reveals that implementing this legislation would have catastrophic impacts, directly causing hardship to tens of thousands of Philadelphians and potentially exacerbating the City’s housing crisis.
The proposed bill’s negative impacts on Philadelphians would include the guaranteed temporary displacement of 26,000 Philadelphians since in-unit fire sprinkler installation in historic buildings will require extensive repairs; a heightened risk of rent increases for 14,000 renters living in the older, more affordable apartment buildings that are largely impacted by this bill as landlords pass down repair costs, potentially making these buildings no longer affordable to the City’s working class; and the personal burden of the high-cost of repairs on the more than 10,000 condominium owners in Philadelphia, who will likely defer other necessary maintenance projects as a result.
Data available through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) indicates that high-rise residential buildings are safer than wood frame buildings. Fires with flame damage beyond the unit of origin, fire deaths, and average property loss per fire were lower in high-rise apartment buildings than in other multifamily/apartment buildings. In addition, studies show that deaths and injuries are more likely to occur in single-family homes (67%) rather than high-rise apartment buildings (3%). Existing safety codes and regulations are in place to address the risk associated with fires in high-rise apartment buildings. There is no evidence to suggest that fire suppression systems would result in a decrease in fire-related deaths and injuries in high-rise residential buildings.
"This bill has nothing to do with safety,” said mayoral candidate Maria Quiñones Sánchez. “It creates a completely unnecessary financial burden on residents, particularly seniors and those on a fixed income, and would force people out of their homes. As Chair of License and Inspection for 12 years I opposed this onerous bill and others like it and would veto it as Mayor."
City Council is urged to reject the proposed fire sprinkler mandate and ensure the safety of Philadelphians without creating unnecessary costs and displacements.
To download the full reports, click here.
About Pennsylvania Apartment Association
The Pennsylvania Apartment Association (PAA) is one of the top ten largest apartment associations in the country. As an affiliate of the National Apartment Association, PAA serves as a trusted, preeminent resource for all stakeholders in the Pennsylvania rental housing industry through advocacy, education and collaboration. PAA partners with legislators and regulators to proactively implement policies that are mutually beneficial to members and the families they house. Additionally, PAA provides in-person education and credentialing courses for its members that improve the skills of current and future multifamily team members.
THANK YOU TO ALL OF THOSE WHO JOINED THE EFFORTS TO STOP BILL 220299 ON THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2023 at Philadelphia City Hall!
Thank you to everyone who came out to City Hall! We had a great turnout, received a lot of media attention, and put pressure on Councilmembers to VOTE NO on Bill 220299.
We’ll continue building off this momentum in the following weeks by sharing the results of our economic impact and engineering studies and sending in letters to the editors at local publications. Stay tuned for more ways you can help!
Couldn’t make it out yesterday? Take a moment to read and watch some of the media coverage below:
Philadelphia Inquirer: Philly condo, apartment residents protest a bill to add sprinklers to old buildings
MSN (syndicated from NBC 10): Locals Concerned About Proposed Sprinkler Bill That Could Raise Rent and Cost Thousands
ABC Action News at 10: https://muckrack.com/broadcast/savedclips/view/EZS0ZP71WW
WHYY Tweet: https://twitter.com/WHYYNews/status/1636457378051661844
Yahoo! (syndicated from CBS): Protest of Philadelphia sprinkler bill in front of City Hall
Plan Philly Tweet: https://twitter.com/PlanPhilly/status/1636456317585084417
What is Bill 220299?
Bill 220299, introduced by Philadelphia Council Members Mark Squilla and Katherine Gilmore Richardson, would require the retrofit installation of automatic sprinkler systems throughout high-rise buildings (75+ feet), primarily impacting condominium residents and apartment buildings across the City of Philadelphia.
Why should it be stopped?
- Installing new systems will cost renters and owners between $20,000 to $50,000 per unit, not including the cost to relocate residents, unforeseen logistical issues, and supply chain challenges.
- From our initial research, there has been no increase in fires in apartment and condominium buildings targeted by the bill. As such, this extremely costly mandate is unwarranted.
- Beyond the impact on both market-rate rental housing and individually owned condominiums, this bill could devastate affordable housing in the city due to the astronomical cost of compliance.
- If passed in Philadelphia, this would have ripple effects throughout Pennsylvania and across the country.
Studies on Impact
- On March 23, 2023 PAA will be releasing two studies:
- E-Consult Solutions which independently examined the costs and impact on affordability across the City of Philadelphia.
- Thriven Design which independently examined the cost on owners which highlights the costs of this retrofit and other costs including the relocation of tenants in order to be in compliance.
- Philadelphia Councilmembers have received over 1,200 emails from residents across the City asking them to VOTE NO and withdraw Bill 220299!
- Over 250+ residents have RSVP'D to protest Bill 220299 for PHL City Council's March 16, 2023 Stated Council Meeting.
- For a condo owner: If this bill passes, it would cost between $20,000 to $50,000 per unit, not including the cost to relocate residents, unforeseen logistical issues, and supply chain challenges.
- For a condo/apartment renter: If this bill passes, it would cost housing suppliers $20,000 to $50,000 per unit, and those costs will surely be passed down to me, plus the burden of relocation. We estimate rents would need to increase $200-$400 a month to offset the costs of this unfunded mandate.
- It’s assumed that Philly condo owners are wealthy and have this kind of money to throw around when in fact, the average condo in Philadelphia costs around $300,000 and this bill would be a financial burden to most.
- If this bill is passed, it will only create more problems. Residents will be displaced, thousands of renters and owners' lives will be disrupted, and our city’s housing affordability problem will only get worse.
What can you do to help?
- The cost of complying with this new mandate will have to be passed onto renters through increased rents and will be directly imposed on condominium owners through significant special assessments. Educate residents of Philadelphia now on how this bill could impact them.
- Spread the word to your network of apartment and condo owners in Philadelphia: Stop Bill No. 220299.
- Email or call City Council Members directly to urge them NOT to pass this bill.
- Sign Community Associations Institute’s letter of opposition which will be emailed directly to Councilmembers here: Philadelphia Residents: Sign the Letter to City Council Opposing Sprinkler Retrofit Bill.
- Contact us at (610) 664-1800 or email@example.com to find out how you can join PAA’s coalitions and committees to fight this bill
DO NOT PASS BILL NO. 220299