Senate panel approves additional measures to combat blight

HARRISBURG – Following passage of several anti-blight bills last week, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee approved additional measures today that would offer resources to rehabilitate structures that have fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair.

The committee approved legislation sponsored by Committee Chairman Senator David G. Argall (R-29) that would provide new funding for the demolition of blighted structures. Senate Bill 1427 would allow counties to apply a special deed and mortgage recording fee of up to $15 to be used exclusively for demolition-related activity.

“While the problem of blight affects communities throughout the state, the economic differences between small and large communities make it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem,” Argall said. “One of the keys to our strategy to combat blight is offering counties and municipalities a wide range of options to address the issue in a way that makes sense for that individual community.”

The committee also approved Senate Bill 1442, legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Brewster (D-45), who serves as the Democratic Chairman of the committee. Brewster’s proposal would enable counties to apply up to 10 percent of the sale price of a property sold at a judicial sale or upset sale to be used specifically for demolition and rehabilitation purposes within that county.

“These bills passed in committee today will help municipalities in all 67 counties in the Commonwealth deal with blight as well as a lawful way to keep bad landlords in check,” Brewster said. “Demolition costs are expensive and it’s difficult for local governments to find money to remove blighted buildings. Blight removal is necessary to attract to new businesses and property owners.”

In addition to providing new resources to combat blight, the committee also approved a measure sponsored by Senator Leanna Washington (D-4) to hold property owners responsible for habitually violating municipal codes.

Senate Bill 1420 would allow the Department of Transportation to suspend a property owner’s driver’s license in cases that involve at least three serious convictions of property violations within a municipality. The suspension could occur after all appeals are exhausted and no effort had been made to correct the violation.

“Senate Bill 1420 was the result of a series of hearings with local organizations and agencies about the issues facing municipalities,” Washington said. “One of the biggest issues we confronted was fighting blight and municipal property code violations. Local governments were looking for more tools to combat code violators, and through this legislation, landlords and slumlords will know that there will be serious consequences for serious violations.”

All three bills were sent to the full Senate for consideration.


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