The presence of blighted and abandoned properties is among southwestern Pennsylvania’s most pressing threats, compromising the regional economy. That was the focus of a report unveiled at the Regional Equitable Development Summit today/yesterday.
The report, “Southwestern Pennsylvania Blighted and Abandoned Properties Solutions Project,” calls blight “an economic crime” costing taxpayers and municipalities millions of dollars in lost property taxes, sewer and water fees and increased expenditures.
The study indicates that addressing blight pays off in stabilizing neighborhoods, increased revenue, job creation and a drop in crime.
Keynote speaker John Kromer, a senior consultant with the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, says the blight problem is not just in inner cities but over the past decade has spread to suburbs.
Kromer, the former Director of Housing in Philadelphia, says there is an opportunity for redevelopment here because the level of organizational strength that exists in southwestern Pennsylvania…does not in other regions dealing with blight.
But with 10,000 vacant properties in the Pittsburgh area, there is not going to a turnaround overnight….."The good news is that there are a lot things that can be done incrementally to show progress every year and to enable people to begin to think that we are moving in the right direction."
Summit participants said there needs to be a regional plan to attack blight and restore properties to benefit the community.