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Politics & Government

Report: Blighted Properties Costing Allegheny County Millions of Dollars Each Year

Blighted properties not only are an eyesore for neighborhoods and communities, but also they cost homeowners and local governments millions of dollars, according to a new report from Delta Development Group Inc.

“The annual impact of these problem properties for our 41 communities is actually over $254 million a year, which is enormous,” said An Lewis, executive director of the Steel Valley Council of Governments, one of the groups that commissioned the report.

That impact comes from services such as police, fire officials, inspectors and demolition, as well as the loss of real estate tax revenue and property value for homeowners.

“The loss of value to our home is, on average, conservatively estimated to be 15 percent to 17 percent,” Lewis said, “and when we aggregate that number across just our 41 municipalities, that number adds up to $220 million of lost equity.”

Other findings included:

  • The direct cost to municipal services is $10,720,302.
  • The direct cost related to the loss of tax revenue is $8,637,875.
  • The indirect costs associated with a loss in property value are estimated at between $218 million and $247 million.
  • The indirect costs associated with the loss of real estate taxes due to a decline in property value is estimated to be between $8,574,723 and $9,718,019.

On Thursday, Allegheny County Council President Charles Martoni will welcome County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who will address the group at a Tri-County Forum. The ultimate goal is to fight blight through the formation of what’s called a land bank.
“The sole purpose of the land bank is to make the acquisition, the inventory, the managing and the marketing of these abandoned, blighted, tax-delinquent, vacant lots — to make that process more efficient, more strategic and to get those properties back on the tax roll,” Lewis said.

The Steel Valley Council of Government, the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and the Twin Rivers Council of Governments commissioned the report on blight on behalf of their 41 member communities in the Mon Valley. Those municipalities would be responsible for forming the land bank. Lewis said next steps include developing a financial strategy for starting, forming and sustaining a land bank.

“This would be the first multi-municipal land bank in the nation,” she said. “We would be developing a model that could be replicated across the county and other areas.”

Lewis said the hope is that a business plan can be completed by the middle of 2014.

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