Fight vs. blight is worth it

The blight task force being established by the city of Altoona will elevate the community’s attack on that unwanted detriment to quality of life.

However, besides getting the effort off the proverbial launching pad, all connected with the stepped-up anti-blight effort will need to acknowledge the complexity of the issue.

The initiative won’t be just a matter of ridding a neighborhood of a rundown — perhaps dangerous — structure. Also required, going forward, will be means for identifying and addressing evolving blight before it becomes difficult to handle — and recognizing the reasons for the deterioration.

The bases for some blight are human challenges or limitations.

For example, people living on limited incomes, or who are suffering from physical or medical issues that limit their mobility, are susceptible to home maintenance problems that become more serious as time passes. Then there are those business properties that are vacated and remain vacant for prolonged periods of time because of their size or location.

As part of its work, the new task force will need to brainstorm ways to help those who legitimately need help — such as some elderly residents — with property maintenance.

Perhaps Altoona and this task force can become leaders in mobilizing volunteers able and willing to lend a hand on behalf of this worthwhile effort.

Are there businesses and employee groups locally who would be willing to become allies of the task force, either with manpower or by providing materials?

Regarding formation of the task force, Mayor Matt Pacifico said the panel would comprise “individuals from local organizations, community associations, the business community and local residents.”

Applications are being sought from anyone willing to serve.

According to the mayor, an application form and a listing of task force member responsibilities can be found at www.altoonapa.gov.

The application deadline is

Sept. 8.

Additional information can be obtained by getting in touch with Stephanie Burgess, the mayor’s legislative aide, at sburgess@altoona pa.gov or by calling 949-2476.

This will be a great opportunity for many community-minded people to get involved.

This city already allocates federal Community Development Block Grant funds for its blighted property demolition program; the city commendably is trying to be as proactive as available money allows.

But a drive through the community or a walk through one’s local neighborhood reveals needs that ought to be targeted but resources to fix them don’t yet exist.

Meanwhile, a fact that’s no stranger to Altoona and other communities is that blight is contagious.

People who live next to or near a structure in disrepair are less likely to expend money for significant maintenance of theirs.

However, eliminating blight provides encouragement and incentive for such expenditures.

A property well maintained has a higher property value, and a neighborhood with well-maintained houses is attractive to people seeking to buy a home when one is being sold.

The task force will be a welcome asset for this many-faceted, complex issue. The city and its people must make the most of it.


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