Legislators Mull New Fee to Help Combat Blight
September 22, 2016
HARRISBURG — Counties could underwrite demolition work by levying a new fee on recorded deeds under a bill gaining momentum in the remaining weeks of the legislative session.
The House Urban Affairs Committee approved Wednesday a Senate-passed bill aimed at ridding neighborhoods of abandoned and dilapidated buildings that contribute to the spread of blight.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. David Argall, R-29, Tamaqua, would give counties the option of tacking a fee up to $15 for recording deeds and mortgages with the revenue earmarked for a county demolition fund.
County officials would have to submit plans for demolition work and annual reports to the state Department of Community and Economic Development under an amendment added to the bill.
On the panel, Rep. Frank Farina, D-112, Jessup, voted for the bill. Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124, Tamaqua, voted against it.
If enacted, counties potentially could generate as much as $14 million annually for demolition work if the top $15 fee is levied uniformly, according to an analysis by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
This bill faces House floor and Senate votes to agree with amendments before moving to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for signing into law.
Lawmakers enacted one or two laws to combat blight during each session in recent years.
Rep. Scott Petri, R-178, Richboro, the urban affairs chairman, said lawmakers, real estate agents, builders and housing advocates are negotiating where agreement can be reached on blight bills.
Mr. Petri said discussions continue with legislation to speed up the foreclosure of vacant and abandoned properties, but he called it a “tough process.”
Mr. Argall and Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, sponsored a bill to fast-track foreclosure to get the property in the hands of responsible owners quicker.
Source: The Times-Tribune
Additional Resource: SB 486 (full text)