The Allegheny County Department of Economic Development recently launched its 2014 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program through its Vacant Property Recovery Program. The initiative provides an opportunity for individuals, businesses, nonprofits or government entities to apply for vacant and uncared for lots at a discounted price to the applicant.
“Over the past five years, the Vacant Property Recovery Program has played an integral part in revitalizing and redeveloping our neighborhoods by working with applicants to convey vacant, blighted properties for use as side yards, to develop affordable housing and for other uses such as parks, green space and commercial and residential property,” says Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We are proud that the program was recognized this year as a recipient of the 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence and are thrilled to be able to provide the Side Yard program for a second year.”
Cassandra Collinge, manager of housing development for the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, says the Vacant Property Recovery Program has been around since the ‘90s but has gained popularity in the past five years.
Collinge explains that the Vacant Property Recovery Program is an applicant driven process to reuse the county’s blighted buildings and properties. A property is generally deemed blighted when it is tax delinquent for three years. She says the venture helps to create clean titles for the deserted plots.
The abandoned land may be attractive to individuals and organizations for various reasons. Collinge says people may want to absorb a side yard, or delinquent structure adjacent to their home or business, to expand their yard, create additional parking or simply have something nicer next door.
Properties have also been used as the site of a new structure, park or memorial. Collinge notes that there’s a veterans’ memorial park in Heidelberg on land granted through the project.
Allegheny County will accept applications to acquire vacant properties in 28 of the county’s 44 municipalities at a reduced cost to the applicant through the special 2014 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program.
This program is available in Braddock Hills, Carnegie, Collier, Coraopolis, Dravosburg, Etna, Forward, Glassport, Green Tree, Harrison, Heidelberg, Liberty, McCandless, Moon, Munhall, North Fayette, North Versailles, O’Hara, Oakdale, Penn Hills, Plum, Ross, Scott, Turtle Creek, West Homestead, West Mifflin, Whitaker and Wilkins.
Applications must be submitted no later than Aug. 30, 2014. Up to 60 applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis; only five applications will be accepted per municipality to ensure that all municipalities and residents have an opportunity to apply. Applicants must be current on taxes, water, sewage and refuse bills on all properties owned in Allegheny County and cannot have any outstanding code violations or municipal liens on any properties.
“We’ve been fortunate to see this program grow over the past year with 10 municipalities joining in 2013, and another three joining since the beginning of the year," says Dennis Davin, director of economic development. "From 2012 through 2013, we received over 240 applications, accepted 135 properties and conveyed 119 parcels. In addition to eliminating visual blight, the program improves the safety of neighborhoods, returns properties to the tax rolls, eliminates maintenance costs to municipalities and encourages community reinvestment.”
Discounts similar to the 2014 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program are available through the Vacant Property Recovery Program on an ongoing basis in the other 16 municipalities — where it is standard on a rolling basis to underwrite or assist in costs. These municipalities are Braddock, East Pittsburgh, Homestead, McKees Rocks, Millvale, Mount Oliver, North Braddock, Pitcairn, Rankin, Sharpsburg, Stowe, Swissvale, Tarentum, Verona, Versailles and Wilkinsburg. Funding for the program is provided through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, County general funds and applicant payments towards acquisition costs.
“[The project] ends up having a very positive impact on the community from a tax stand point and improving visual blight,” Collinge said.
For additional information, or to request an application, please contact 412-350-1090.
Source: Allegheny County, Cassandra Collinge