2012-11-17 / Viewpoints

Attacking Blight

Dear editor:

Regarding your story, “Austin Focusing on Blight” (Endeavor News, Oct. 27), you may be interested in knowing that Governor Tom Corbett signed land bank legislation into law on Oct. 24. The measure empowers counties and local governments to create land banks to convert abandoned and tax-delinquent properties into productive use.

The legislation allows counties or groups of smaller municipalities to work together to form land banks.

Municipalities now have the authority to enact internal financing mechanisms for their land banks, including allowing the land bank to retain a portion of the new tax revenue from properties returned to the tax rolls for up to five years.

It provides ways for the land bank to efficiently interact with the tax sale system. The law also grants land banks an expedited “quiet title” process for clearing titles to properties it acquires. At the same time, the law protects homeowners, especially those who need help paying their taxes.

Blight is a common denominator in Pennsylvania. With an estimated 300,000 vacant properties in the state, land banks can help rejuvenate older, financially-distressed areas.

Local governments grapple with long-lost owners and those who neglect their properties. By establishing land banks, these municipalities will have an entity charged with managing these properties in a way that makes sense.

Bringing the fragmented ownership of property from multiple public agencies – as well as other private, tax-delinquent owners – under one roof will better enable a range of stakeholders to put property into more productive use and back on the tax rolls.

Cynthia Witman Daley

Policy Director

Housing Alliance of Pa.

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