Wolf Administration Tours Blighted Properties, Details Benefits of Restore Pennsylvania for Columbia County

Berwick, PA – Today, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development Rick Vilello joined local officials and community leaders on a tour of blighted properties in Berwick, Columbia County. The tour included a discussion about the region’s challenges in its fight against blight. They also discussed how the Restore Pennsylvania proposal could help municipalities eliminate blight and help bolster flood protection.

“As we continue to talk with community leaders and look at blighted areas across the commonwealth, we’re hearing the same common theme: our communities need more funding to remediate blight and fix their infrastructure,” Vilello said. “Right now, there just isn’t enough funding being offered at the state or federal level. Restore Pennsylvania is the only way we can fund the solutions to these critical issues.”

Restore Pennsylvania, the $4.5 billion bipartisan proposal funded through a commonsense severance tax, would increase financial resources at the local level to acquire and demolish blighted properties to create new development opportunities and provide new green space.

More than 300,000 blighted properties exist in Pennsylvania, causing health and safety concerns and lowering property values and tax revenues. The problem is exacerbated in small communities like Berwick, which struggles with a high vacancy rate of between 11 and 18 percent in approximately half of its geographic area. Additionally, about a quarter of the housing stock in Berwick is at least 80 years old. If passed into law, Restore Pennsylvania would fund blight remediation efforts at a level far beyond any existing funding mechanisms at the local and state levels, and allow municipalities to direct funding to other economic development projects.

“Blight is a pervasive problem throughout Berwick and across Columbia County,” said Damien Scoblink, Berwick Borough manager. “Blight lowers property values, hinders investment and development, and makes our community less safe. It’s also an extremely costly issue to fix, so making new funding available through Restore Pennsylvania is vital for us here in Berwick.”

Restore Pennsylvania is a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that will help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.

For more information about the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Michael Gerber, DCED, 717.783.1132

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