The PA House of Representatives today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) giving local redevelopment authorities greater ability to combat neighborhood blight.
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 fight blight, which is becoming a growing problem in many areas of the state.”
Stefano noted his visits to local communities also showcased the need for this legislation. “I have visited communities throughout my district that are plagued with blight. Blight is often times too pervasive for a local municipality to deal with it on their own. In Somerset County blight was a consistent concern raised by constituents when the County was soliciting feedback on their comprehensive plan. In Fayette County blight has been a constant source of public concern as well.”
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.
“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.”
Stefano thanked Executive Director of the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority, Andrew French, for his contributions in developing SB667. “This bill came about from a meeting I had with Andrew French of the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority who lamented the cost and complication involved in setting up a separate land bank. He further pointed out that many land banks are run by redevelopment authority staff with a separate board of directors and legal counsel. This creates duplicative costs which have become significant hurdles in setting up land banks in many parts of the Commonwealth.”
Andrew French noted “This is the most significant step that the State has taken in the fight against blight since the Land Bank law was passed 5 years ago. For decades, Redevelopment Authorities have been on the front lines of remediating blight. With this legislation, redevelopment authorities will now have a proven tool in stopping the spread of blight in our communities.”
Senate Bill 667 returns to the Senate for concurrence before being sent to the Governor for his signature.
CONTACT: Ben Wren (717)787-7175