This is a response to Jim Snyder's letter to the editor, published Aug. 29, in which he expressed concerns that the City of Altoona's blighted property demolition program had cost the city almost $2 million in tax revenues and 976 residents.
Unfortunately, Snyder's letter was based on several misunderstandings on how this program works.
The city does not take ownership of the land underneath the homes it demolishes. It merely places a lien on the land for the costs of the demolition.
The land remains private property that continues to be taxed. And because the city uses a land value tax, the amount of tax collected does not change whether there is house on the land or not.
So the overall impact of our demolition program on the city's tax base approaches zero - not the $2 million claimed.
Secondly, none of the homes that the city demolishes are occupied at the time of demolition. They are all vacant, mostly stripped and beyond repair. So the demolition of these homes does not decrease the city's population.
And even if it did, the average household size in Blair County is closer to two persons than the four persons Snyder claims in coming up with his figure of 976.
Although the city has demolished nearly 250 homes through this program, it has fixed up nearly 1,500 owner-occupied and rental homes with federal funds - six times more than it has demolished.
This and the continuous number of privately funded new homes and rehabilitations in the city have kept the total number of housing units in the City of Altoona relatively steady since the 1970 census.
The purpose of our very popular blighted property demolition program remains neighborhood stabilization and protecting the investments made by neighboring homeowners in their homes.
This, we are confident, is strengthening the City of Altoona, its neighborhoods and its tax base - not the other way around.
Altoona City Manager