The House Urban Affairs Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) to provide local redevelopment authorities with greater authority and additional resources to combat neighborhood blight.
The bill passed the panel unanimously as amended by Rep Matt Dowling (R-51), who Stefano thanked for his work on the legislation.
Stefano said Senate Bill 667 would grant redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act, enabling them to take an active role in rehabilitated blighted properties and neighborhoods.
“Blighted, abandoned properties pose a danger to the public, increase crime rates and reduce property values,” Stefano said. “This legislation will give communities a valuable tool to effectively blight, which is becoming a growing problem in many areas of the state.”
A land bank is an independent public entity created by a municipality to expedite the process of acquiring and rehabilitating blighted, dilapidated, and abandoned properties. In many instances, land banks and redevelopment authorities work in unison to eliminate blight in communities.
“While land banks have been crucial in this fight, many of the Commonwealth’s counties have active redevelopment authorities which have been performing these same functions since 1945 but do not have specified authority under Pennsylvania law” Stefano said. “Granting redevelopment authorities the same powers as land banks would allow them to acquire tax delinquent properties at a judicial sale without competitive bidding.”
The legislation would also enable redevelopment authorities to discharge tax liens on blighted properties, and to share up to 50% percent of the real property taxes for five years after conveyance of authority-owned property. It would also eliminate the need to form an entirely new entity in these municipalities, which can be redundant and cost-prohibitive, given the lack of resources and funding for these initiatives.
“Under my proposal, land banks will continue to remain a successful and useful tool for municipalities in combatting blight,” Stefano said. “This bill will offer another resource for municipalities with active redevelopment authorities to use in eliminating blight, rehabilitating properties and improving neighborhoods and communities while saving them money and avoiding costly and timely duplication of services.”
Senate Bill 667 now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.