a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teamwork needed to tackle blight

One of many examples of blight in Donora, Pa.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. ¬ – A nonprofit in Pittsburgh that promotes smart growth is suggesting the formation of a panel to address the growing problem of residential blight in the region.

Sustainable Pittsburgh this month released a report, Southwestern Pennsylvania Blighted and Abandoned Properties Solution Project, that identified a staggering list of 67,886 abandoned housing units in this corner of the state.

“The report substantiates that addressing blight and abandonment offers the chance to build assets in a community and deliver economic, environmental, and social equity benefits for both community and the region as a whole,” the report states.

However, there is no regional plan, decision-making body or coordinated effort to deal with this crisis that has impeded economic recovery.

Teamwork would foster and environment that would help create jobs, including those associated with demolition, and increase the value of properties whose owners still take pride in them, the report shows.

Here in the mid-Mon Valley in such municipalities as Charleroi and Donora, there is a perception that blight is epidemic and that local, county and state officials are not adequately addressing the problem. Houses are added each year to demolition lists through a complicated and costly system of obtaining legal permits to tear down ugly, decrepit buildings.

However, such municipalities typically do not see the real value in buying these houses, Sustainable Pittsburgh has concluded. A municipality’s property assets can increase their bonds, and it stands to gain significant sums of taxable income by putting vacant lots back on the market.

Someone with a good job might also want to invest in a house in one of these dying towns if the blight was erased. That is preferable to every other house being stripped of their copper by thieves after their last occupants move elsewhere.

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