Kim Shindle

Last Updated: June 28, 2018 | View all posts by Kim Shindle

Changes to shorten the foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property were recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

House Bill 653 (Masser, R-Montour) provides for an accelerated foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned property, while maintaining appropriate protections for property owners. Local officials say that many properties in foreclosure are abandoned. These properties often become dangerous eyesores that reduce the property values of taxpaying homeowners in the neighborhood. Studies show that these properties also become prime locations for increased criminal activity, thereby reducing public safety. The foreclosure process in Pennsylvania currently can last from 300 to 540 days. This bill is expected to reduce the time frame for foreclosure on abandoned and vacant property by 240 days.

This bill is the culmination of four years of work by the bicameral, bipartisan Blight Task Force. Since 2009, eight states have enacted expedited foreclosure laws as a way to help local governments and responsible taxpayers maintain and rebuild their communities.

In addition, Wolf signed Senate Bill 667 (Stefano, R-Fayette), which will grant redevelopment authorities the same powers currently allotted to land banks to increase opportunities to combat neighborhood blight. The legislation will allow established redevelopment authorities to fight against blight, saving time and money.

Both bills are aimed at blight to provide additional tools to help increase redevelopment opportunities statewide.

“My administration is committed to addressing blight and we have invested in community redevelopment that enhances that goal,” Wolf said. “These bills are important to help local communities more swiftly address blight and I commend the bipartisan Blight Task Force for its continued dedication to this important cause.”

While land banks have been crucial in this fight, many of the commonwealth’s counties have active redevelopment authorities which have been performing similar functions for decades. Granting redevelopment authorities the same powers allotted to land banks through the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act will allow them to acquire tax delinquent properties at a judicial sale through a more streamlined process. It will also eliminate the need to form an entirely new entity in these municipalities, which can be redundant and divert resources which could be dedicated to eradicating blight and promoting redevelopment.