Allegheny County is hoping to fight blight by offering as much as a $3,000 discount to anyone looking to take ownership and improve abandon properties.
The Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program usually charges individuals or entities that want to acquire the properties the assessed value of the parcel plus about $3,000 in fees. Between now and July 15 the county will waive between $1,600 and all of the fees.
“We really think of this as a community development or a community improvement program,” said Cassandra Collinge, who runs the program for the county. “We have designed the program very specifically to make sure that the property is improved visibly to improve the community.”
The program began as a way for homeowners living next to abandon properties to take control of the land for use as a side yard or garden, but it has expanded to allow for all types of development, including residential and commercial projects and by those who do not hold property adjacent to the blighted land.
The vacant property program is available in 33 of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, and Collinge said the communities are extremely varied.
“There are areas of the counties that have a greater volume of abandon properties, but some of what folks might perceive as less distressed areas they also have blight and abandonment,” Collinge said.
Among those on the list are Wilkinsburg, Mt. Oliver, McCandless and Green Tree.
In an effort to make sure the land does not simply move from one owner to the other without any value being added to the community or the tax rolls, the county reviews the applicant’s plan for the property and their ability to carry out the plan. There is then a review of the effort at either six or 12 months. If the plan is not being properly implemented the county will not release the title to the land.
Collinge said there is no place where a list of the properties is listed, but she suggested anyone who sees an abandon property that they want to bring back to life can call her office at (412) 350-1079 and ask if it is eligible for the program.