HARRISBURG – The House of Representatives approved a bill authored by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) that would allow counties across Pennsylvania to create a local demolition funding program.
“Despite having some of the toughest anti-blight laws on the books, communities still struggle for funding to demolish vacant and abandoned properties,” Argall said.
Under Argall’s bill, counties would have the option to place an additional fee up to $15 on deeds and mortgages recorded in the county. Argall said that could mean significant funding for Berks and Schuylkill counties.
“This bill would mean over $300,000 in Berks County and more than $130,000 in Schuylkill County for demolition projects,” Argall said. “This is another tool for communities to continue their war on blight.”
The new revenue would be used exclusively for demolition funding within that specific county.
“If you look at a community like Shenandoah, which lost 80 percent of its population since the peak of the anthracite coal industry, there are a lot of empty homes,” Argall said.
Those abandoned properties, according to Argall, are a threat to public safety, as well as leading to the deterioration of property values of neighboring properties that are occupied.
“Last summer, a fire destroyed 13 abandoned homes in Shenandoah,” Argall said. “Fortunately, no one was injured, but it’s still a reminder that we cannot fix every property – sometimes they need to come down. This bill provides an added investment that is targeted to those communities that need it the most, like Shenandoah.”
Senate Bill 486 would also require annual reporting available to the public detailing the success of the demolition programs, including how many properties are demolished and the cost associated with those demolition projects.
The bill would be in effect for 10 years, leaving it up to the legislature and governor to determine whether to renew the program.
“We want to see that this tool is effective and we are making progress in this ongoing war on blight,” Argall said.
The bill heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.