Blair funds to tackle blight

County prepares to begin administering program to address problem properties

HOLLIDAYSBURG — In Sep­tember 2017, the costs of recording a mortgage and deed went up by $7.50 in Blair County to fund what commissioners said would be a revenue source to address blighted properties.

Now that the fund has accumulated about $66,000, commissioners are reviewing proposed guidelines that if adopted, will permit up to $10,000 per property to flow to local governments and redevelopment agencies intent on ad­dressing blight.

It’s a new program that has accumulated enough money to get started, county Director of Social Services James Hudack said.

In May 2017, commissioners agreed to create the fund, an option under the state’s Demo­lition Act 152. While the state allowed counties to levy a fee of up to $15 per recorded mortgage or deed, Blair County commissioners enacted a fee of $7.50 to get started.

While meeting Tuesday, Com­mis­sioner Terry Tomassetti referenced the proposed $10,000 maximum.

“When I look at dilapidated homes, I’m not sure how far $10,000 will go,” Tomassetti said.

“Ten thousand may or may not be enough,” Hudack responded.

A typical single family home, Hudack said, can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to demolish. But the guidelines, he added, also encourage local governments and redevelopment authorities to pledge money toward demolition.

Hudack’s department, on behalf of the county, will take responsibility for administering the new program through the county’s Hous­ing Trust Fund Advisory Board.

The board, a group of five appointed county residents with expertise in housing and financing, will be asked to evaluate requests for financial help.

Subsequently, the advisory board’s requests will be forwarded to the commissioners to consider.

Hudack said he envisions the advisory board being mindful of its recommendations so funds are distributed throughout the county and not just to one or two municipalities.

Chief Clerk Helen Schmitt said the fund also would be available to the county if it wants to demolish a blighted property in its repository of properties acquired for lack of real estate tax payments.

Hudack said he is encouraged to see the program get started and if warranted, guideline changes can be considered as the program develops.

Those with questions can contact the county Depart­ment of Social Services at 693-3023.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens can be reached at 946-7456.

Demolition guidelines

Rationale for demolishing a structure: public nuisance; no rehabilitation in the past 12 months; unfit for human habitation; risk of fire, safety or other hazards; presence of vermin or accumulation of debris; dilapidated appearance affects surrounding properties; attractive nuisance for illicit purposes.

Source: Proposed Blair County Demolition Fund Guidelines