Bipartisan Effort Leads to New Anti-Blight Laws

MAHANOY CITY – Two new laws will assist communities all across Pennsylvania to wage a stronger battle on the war on blight, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Representative Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill).

The Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked together to shepherd proposals through the Senate and House that will give local governments additional funding options and stricter time periods in which property owners must address known code violations.

“This is a huge shot in the arm for communities struggling to win the war on blight,” Argall said. “Many older coal region towns continue to struggle with a high percentage of abandoned properties and lack of investment to tear down blighted structures. In addition to efforts in the past, these new laws are a reflection of the requests made by local elected officials to Representative Goodman and me. I’m pleased to see the overwhelming bipartisan support because blight can affect any community, from Philadelphia to New Philadelphia. I look forward to seeing these new tools put to use locally.”

“Blight is a major problem, particularly in older communities that have declining populations, like we have across much of Schuylkill County,” Goodman said. “Run-down properties drive down the value of neighboring properties and serve as a haven for criminal activity. We must attack this problem.”

Under Act 152 of 2016, counties could collect up to $15 in each deed and mortgage recorded at the County Recorder of Deeds office to be used exclusively for demolition within that county. A county has to opt-in to the program. In Schuylkill County, that could mean over $130,000 in new demolition funding.

Act 133 of 2016 will require owners whose property has known municipal property code violation(s) to bring their property into compliance or demolish the structure within 12 months of purchase. The prior law was set at 18 months.

Argall and Goodman point to Shenandoah as a community that could benefit from these changes. Over the last several decades, the borough lost 80 percent of its population since the peak of the anthracite coal production. A fire last summer destroyed more than a dozen vacant homes. The lawmakers said these new laws will provide additional dollars and tools for the borough to remediate blighted properties.

“I am pleased we were able to work together to give municipalities across the state another tool in their toolbox to fight blight,” Goodman said. “Blight is one of the top concerns of municipal leaders and residents from my legislative district.”

“Blight is a pervasive problem that can spread block by block, so it is critical to ensure we prevent that problem before it starts,” Argall said.
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