Letter to the Editor: List of blight remediation options is growing

Senator David G. Argall (R-29)
Chairman, Pennsylvania Blight Task Force

For some Pennsylvania communities, large and small, blighted buildings remain a serious threat to the future of their neighborhoods.

Blight isn’t a problem that has one easy fix.  During the past decade, a bipartisan effort in the state house and senate has finally begun to make some real progress in the war against blight.

Some of the new laws to tackle blight include:

Act 135 of 2008 – allows for the appointment of a third party conservator through court action in order to rehab or demolish a property when the owner refuses or is unavailable to take care of the property.

Act 90 of 2010 – allows municipalities to collect costs related to code violations by filing judgements against property owners, not just liens against the properties, also allows municipalities to deny applications for municipal permits and licenses if the applicant is delinquent on taxes or other municipal charges or any property owned by the applicant is in serious violation of code and no substantial actions has been taken to abate the problem.  It also clarifies that municipalities may extradite property owners who live outside of Pennsylvania who are subject to municipal ordinance prosecutions.

Act 153 of 2012 – authorizes local, stand alone entities – land banks – whose sole function is to acquire, manage and dispose of tax delinquent or abandoned properties with the goal of getting them back in to productive use.

Act 34 of 2015 – reduces the number of housing code convictions needed to criminally prosecute a property owner from four to two.

Act 152 of 2016 – gives counties the authority to apply a fee through the Recorder of Deeds office of up to $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded to be used for a demolition program in that respective county.

Blight is not a “one size fits all” problem so it is critical to have numerous strategies to tackle the problem.  If your community is not utilizing the above laws in the battle against blight, now is the time to speak up and ask “why not”?