Blighted and vacant properties have devastating effects on neighborhoods and municipalities.
There are many efforts currently underway led by organizations around the Pittsburgh area working to combat blight and CONNECT in partnership with GRB Law has created a unique program to help municipalities address blight in their own communities.
Blight Expertise for CONNECT
In 2015 after an RFP and selection process CONNECT chose GRB to serve as special “blight council” to CONNECT, providing legal advice and representation on matters regarding blighted, vacant and abandoned housing (specifically Act 90- the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act and the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act). GRB has been meeting one-on-one with CONNECT municipalities to discuss their blight needs and current efforts, and has contracted with individual municipalities to guide them through various legal processes. As additional CONNECT municipalities take advantage of this program, a slate of “best practices” will be developed, and cross-boundary approaches to tackling these issues will emerge.
In May of 2016, GRB Law Blight Attorneys Megan Ott and Kate Diersen hosted a Blight Workshop for CONNECT. Megan and Kate shared tools and resources for combatting blight, and reviewed actual problem properties in CONNECT municipalities. Not only that, attendees learned from one another through sharing their own experiences and lessons learned from their everyday efforts to mitigate blight. Megan and Kate were able to focus on example properties in CONNECT municipalities, and show our members how to gather data using online, public data tools that are freely available for use (see photos on right).
The workshop resulted in the Blighted and Abandoned Housing Data Tools informational sheet which includes the links to data tools that can help municipal officials triage properties by gathering sufficient data and developing a strategy to blighted lots and buildings.
To continue in the success of this effort, CONNECT’S Blight Working Group will plan for more workshops with additional focus areas, such as tax liens, code enforcements, and more. See our ‘Upcoming Events’ section for meeting information.
Tri-COG Collaborative Land Bank
In April 2016, CONNECT passed Resolution 16-06 which endorsed the creation of the Tri-COG Collaborative (TCC) Land Bank, while urging Allegheny County to approve the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement that would officially form the TCC. In June, the Allegheny County Council authorized Allegheny County to sign the Agreement, which officially began the TCC. CONNECT continues to support this effort as it moves forward!
This land bank will be the first of its kind in Western Pennsylvania, and will serve as a promising tool to help tackle blight in participating municipalities. In 2012, in the Tri-COG region alone, there were 20,077 vacant lots and 7,158 lots with blighted structures. The direct cost of this is nearly $19.3 million dollars to the municipalities (in police, fire, and public works services) and leads to an estimated property value loss between $218 million to $247 million dollars, which adds up to $8.5 million to $9.7 million dollars in lost tax revenue for municipalities, school districts, and Allegheny County.
The executive summary of the Land Bank can be found here and the full business plan can be found here.
If you are interested in learning more about CONNECT’s work with Blight & Abandonment, or would like to join the Blight & Abandonment Working Group, please contact Kristen Michaels at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for a list of all resolutions passed by CONNECT that pertain to our work in Blight and Abandonment.