Fighting blight in the Capital City
Fighting the blight problem in the capital city is a top priority for city officials and lawmakers who live there. Harrisburg Mayor, Eric Papenfuse, announced a new strategy to tackle the issue today, just hours before a bill which would give money to revamp blighted areas unanimously passed a house committee.
Two major efforts in the battle to protect the city of Harrisburg from adding more condemned and trashed properties to its already length list is giving some people faith that things may finally turn around.
A program that allows third class cities the ability to revamp old buildings and blighted areas is one step closer to coming to the capital city.
"If we get this, this could really change Harrisburg around," says Representative, Patty Kim.
Kim is behind a bill which if passed would allow Harrisburg to participate in an improvement and revitalization project. The program issues bonds to builders and allows local and state taxes to cover the cost for a period of time.
"We have to really give people an incentive to say hey look take another look at Harrisburg ya know - it might be a little more expensive but if we have this program to couple with it - it would make sense financially to come invest here," says Rep. Kim.
The bill unanimously passed a house committee and now goes on to the house and senate for a vote. People who live in the city hope the bill passes. They say they're sick of looking at condemned and trashed properties.
"They're not taking care of the properties right - you know what I mean? A lot of trash everywhere and like I said, it's an eyesore," says Tyrone Spruill, a resident of Harrisburg.
Kim's bill isn't the only effort to turn around run-down areas. Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced a new approach to fight blight by pressuring vacant property owners and intervening early.
"If you own a property that is not up to code, you will have an opportunity to fix it up. We'll try to do what we can but if you have the assets and you simply are not fulfilling your responsibility then we will throw down the book at you," says Housing Alliance of PA, Executive Director, Elizabeth Hersh.
Mayor Papenfuse's strategy takes effect immediately. As for Kim's bill, if it passes, Harrisburg would not be able to apply for the program until 2016.