The State Senate today gave final approval to Senator Pat Stefano’s legislation aimed at helping local redevelopment authorities fight community blight.
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 rehabilitating blighted properties and neighborhoods.
During remarks on the Senate Floor, Stefano hailed passage of the measure as an important tool to combat a growing problem that is affecting many communities.
“Unfortunately blight is like a cancer that spreads rapidly through our neighborhoods and risks the safety and the economic vitality of the communities we serve,” Stefano said. “In my district several areas looked into forming a land bank but found the startup costs and the recurring costs to maintain it too expensive. In many of the 16 land banks that have been formed, it has been Redevelopment Authorities that led the way and provided the staff support necessary for the land bank’s operation.
Stefano’s bill would grant redevelopment authorities the same powers as land banks, allowing 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.
As amended by the House, counties that choose to can provide their land banks the authority to function as a land bank without the recurring costs of setting up and supporting a new board. Stefano said his reduces redundancy and costs allowing more resources to be aimed at cleaning up blighted properties.
“Today is a landmark day in the fight against blight in our communities,” Stefano said. “Blighted, abandoned properties pose a danger to the public, increase crime rates and reduce property values,” 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. It is an important tool that we are providing those areas who have not been able to put together the resources necessary to form a land bank under current law.”