Every official, resident, and business owner in every Pennsylvania community can agree on one fact: for Pennsylvania communities to thrive, a majority of the roughly 300,000 vacant properties in the Commonwealth must be put into productive reuse. This manual presents the most effective tools available to Pennsylvania local governments to return vacant properties to productive use. For each tool, it provides a description, the problem it is intended to solve, the actions needed for implementation, and suggestions for how to most effectively use and finance the tool. The manual also provides examples of jurisdictions that have adopted the tools, along with sample documents from the jurisdictions’ ordinances and programs.
The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and May 8 Consulting first began working together on blighted and abandoned property in 2003 with the publication of “Reclaiming Abandoned Pennsylvania” which laid out a comprehensive legislative agenda of state level actions that, if adopted, would make it faster, easier and cheaper for local communities to address blight. Today, in 2014, most of those recommendations have become reality. The partnership between the Housing Alliance and May 8 Consulting has provided a powerful combination of a well-conceived, research-based framework and effective statewide advocacy to promote its adoption.
The first section of the manual describes the need to enact enforceable laws that prevent and eliminate blight and to use code enforcement strategies that are progressive and based on data. Municipalities must have a legal framework to enforce, whether it is in the form of a comprehensive code or individual targeted laws. Tools discussed in the first section are intended to bring vacant properties into code compliance and to eliminate blight. The second section deals with more severe actions for long-term vacant properties that threaten a community’s health and safety. For these most stubborn long-term vacant properties, the tools allow for demolition or the transfer of a property to a responsible new owner.