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Pennsylvania Passes Key Bills to Combat Urban Blight

BillTwo key housing bills, HB 653 and 657 amending Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes were signed by Governor Tom Wolf today.  The bills are aimed at combating urban blight and expediting foreclosure processes for vacant and abandoned properties.

“These bills are important to help local communities more swiftly address blight and I commend the bipartisan Blight Task Force for its continued dedication to this important cause," Wolf said.

HB 653 provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property. The current foreclosure process in Pennsylvania can take anywhere from 300 to 540 days. The new legislation aims to reduce this timeframe by 240 days. According to the House Co-sponsorship Memoranda, the bill, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Kurt A. Masser, "This bill will limit the use of the expedited foreclosure process to vacant and abandoned properties. It provides a process to have a property certified as vacant and abandoned, either by a municipal code officer or through judicial certification, before an expedited foreclosure may commence. The legislation also specifies the process a lender must follow when using expedited foreclosure on these properties."

HB 657, which was introduced in the House by Sen. Patrick J. Stefano grants redevelopment authorities with the same powers currently allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act. "This proposal will in no way eliminate the ability of a community to create a land bank or affect existing land banks in any way," the bill states.

"Granting Redevelopment Authorities the same powers allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act would allow them to acquire tax delinquent properties at a judicial sale without competitive bidding, to discharge tax liens on those properties, and to share up to 50 percent of the real property taxes for five years after conveyance of authority-owned property," the memoranda for the bill states. "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."

Editor's Note: This is a breaking story, please check back for more updates.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.

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