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Politics & Government

Bill Would Give Counties More Help With Blight

Special series: This week we're exploring legislative action taken recently in Harrisburg on important bills that were overshadowed by the passage of the state budget.

Most cities are plagued by blighted and abandoned properties, but who is responsible to demolish them after the owner is nowhere to be found? Senate bill 1442 could solve these issues with a fee on foreclosed properties.

The bill would allow counties to slap on a maximum 10% fee for each property sold at tax sale to be used to demolish old abandoned homes and commercial buildings in the town. The fees would be collected in a general fund that would managed by the county. State Senator James Brewster (D-Allegheny) says that this fee is especially necessary for small towns lacking funds to take care of these structures.

“We don’t do enough for small town America…but just roughly 2,500 communities in this state and we need to think of those little communities that want to play the very important role, and we owe it to the people in that area to come in and help them out with what I consider a cancer that you just cannot handle on your own,” said Brewster.

While serving as mayor of McKeesport, Brewster says his office was responsible for demolishing 600 blighted properties, and he hopes that this bill will open up the same opportunities for other communities.

“We used to get calls all the time too, ‘My grandmother owned this house, we’d like to give it to the city,’ well what’s the city going to do with it? There are liability issues and upkeep issues. And it really is a question of many people just abandoning the property,” said Brewster.

The bill was passed by the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee and is waiting in Appropriations.