Untitled, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from markamav’s photostream

On April 25th of last year a new law went into effect in Pennsylvania: The Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act. The law was created to empower municipalities to combat blight by giving them a host of new tools. In addition to allowing cities and towns to place liens on owner’s assets and deny building and zoning permits, the law allows for the the extradition of out-of-state property owners and the filing of criminal charges against owners who fail to address serious property code violations. Without this law, the worst owners of decaying buildings could rack up violations — treating them as mere parking tickets. On March 8th, a conference was held in Pittsburgh to introduce a series of workshops to address how to use the new law most effectively. From the opening remarks at that conference by Court Gould, Executive Director, Sustainable Pittsburgh:

Once seemingly limited to the stereotypic image of urban decay, blight and abandonment is now a contemporary problem common to all communities. Just as it is a new America where poverty is greater in rural than urban areas, our region is a study of changing socio-economics where pockets of pernicious decline are cropping up in rural, suburban, and urban forms alike. A perspective we partners share is that not only is blight and abandonment ubiquitous across our landscape, but it is recognized to be a marker of larger region-scale concerns.

In step with the Broken Window theory, blight and abandonment is appreciated to be both an outcome as well as precursor to a whole host of social, economic, and environmental concerns. As vacant properties manifest, so begets community withdrawal and the onset of loss of control thus inviting a whole host of ills to take hold. While that decaying property with its broken windows may seem to some to be a low civic priority, it actually stands as is either the neighborhood unraveling by blind-eye neglect or the diamond in the rough asset that cries out to be transformed into productive re-use.

The New Tools in the Blight Fight three-part training series is designed to address the administrative, financial and legal aspects of fighting blight. They are being conducted by the Local Government Academy in partnership with Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny Municipal & School Solicitors Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association. They take place in April and May:

Program #1:
Understanding the Tools in the Fight Against Blight: Property Inventory, Property Maintenance Codes, Rental Property Registration & Municipal Prosecution
April 4, 2012 9 AM – Noon Millvale Community Center

Program #2:
Municipal Tools for Getting the Hard to Collect Money
April 27, 2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM Penn Hills William Anderson Library

Program #3:
The Magisterial Court System: The Role of the Judiciary in Assuring Community Vitality
May 11, 2012 9 AM – Noon Crafton Volunteer Fire Department

You can find out more detailed information and register to attend individual workshops or the whole series here.

This Owner Don’t Care, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Editor B’s photostream