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Our Opinion: Blight fight must be taken seriously

It’s telling that only 28% of local governments in Pennsylvania feel they have the capacity to deal with blight.

We’re willing to bet Warren County, even with a new surcharge aimed at raising money to fund the county’s land bank, falls within the 72% of local governments struggling to deal with blighted properties. Blight is a constant struggle and, in our opinion, it’s time for the state to get more involved.

Many of the issues Pennsylvania faces are the same issues faced by communities around the country. Educating property owners on local codes is a struggle because most people really don’t want to know what’s in the local zoning code. Ignorance is easier than finding the information, and by the time local governments are brought into the loop on a blighted property it’s a lengthy, costly and often contentious process to bring a property back up to code.

Property owners buying houses through limited liability corporations (LLC’s) adds another layer of complexity because finding the person behind an LLC can be incredibly difficult. The shield provided by business laws makes enforcement of local ordinances difficult and time consuming.

And, it’s worth mentioning the lack of statewide standards for both building codes and training for code enforcement officers that creates a patchwork standard of property maintenance laws across the commonwealth..

Pennsylvania has had a Statewide Blight Task Force since 2006. It’s time for that task force to begin advancing proposals to help deal with blight. Funding for land banks would be a help. Minimum state standards for local building codes would be a useful baseline for local officials to follow. And helping untangle the LLC mess is something only the state can do.

A task force was a good first step. It’s time for the state government to take more steps to help address blight across Pennsylvania.

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