Westmoreland land bank projects lauded as success stories
The Westmoreland County Land Bank is being lauded for its work in revitalizing blighted properties in several struggling communities, including Jeannette.
The land bank, the first to be created under the Pennsylvania Land Bank Act of 2012, was featured in a report released last week by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.
The report, “Revitalizing PA: Success Stories & New Priorities,” mentions the Westmoreland County agency as a model and highlights two projects -- Monsour Medical Center/Jayhawk Commons in Jeannette and the Jeannette Greenspaces Community Garden at Clay Avenue and Seventh Street.
“Westmoreland County has been a true pioneer in the creation and active implementation of a land bank, setting an example for other Pennsylvania communities,” said Phyllis Chamberlain, Housing Alliance executive director. “They have been strategic in their steps and have made a visible impact on blight.”
The land bank recently announced its 70th property sale and its 100th land acquisition since its founding in 2013. Pennsylvania now has 23 land banks, which are public entities authorized to acquire and sell vacant and blighted properties for appropriate reuses.
In addition to highlighting “success stories,” the Housing Alliance report makes several policy recommendations:
• Enhancing code enforcement by establishing a grant program for municipalities to fund code offices that help educate owners on property maintenance requirements.
• Increasing state funding for existing programs that seek to prevent and remediate blight.
• Authorizing and encouraging counties to exempt land bank transactions from recording fees.
• Attracting capable investors to invest in distressed communities by requiring tax claim bureaus to state in all notices of tax sales that a property has been condemned by the local municipality or its agent.