Blight is essentially the deterioration of homes or structures over time, which often has a negative impact on a community. It’s also something that lawmakers from both parties are fighting against.
“This was a bipartisan effort. We have Republican and Democrat bills running together as a package, working for the betterment of all of Pennsylvania,” said State Representative Bob Merski (D-Erie).
This morning, several blight-fighting bills were voted out of the House Urban Affairs Committee.
“And this is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democrat issue. Blight doesn’t care if a neighborhood votes ‘R’ or ‘D’,” said State Senator Dave Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill).
Following their vote, lawmakers discussed their legislation and efforts to fight the growing issue in communities across the commonwealth.
“Blight can be everywhere in small towns and in large cities,” said Argall.
“The problems are the same no matter where you are in Pennsylvania,” said Merski.
As a former city council member, Merski says he knows how important of an issue blight is for places like Erie.
“Roofs start to wear, windows need to be repaired, paint on the wood, and the wood begins to rot, and then you have more serious issues like foundational issues,” said Merski. “Blight is a huge problem in the city. This is going to help tremendously,” he added.
Merski’s House Bill 1827 establishes the Municipal Property Maintenance Code Assistance Fund.
“Through budget cuts and trying to not raise taxes, oftentimes the things that were cut were not police and fire, but it was code enforcement,” said Merski.
The fund would give municipalities the opportunity to establish a code enforcement program if they don’t have one, or expand existing code enforcement operations.
Merski says enhancing code enforcement is key to reducing blight, and that less blight means higher home values and greater quality of life.
“A quality of life in your city where people want to come to your city, and people are attracted to your city,” said Merski.
Merski said the grants would be administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Municipalities would be required to provide matching funds.
The bills now head to the House floor for consideration.