Officials discuss blight at roundtable in Harrisburg, a city with 447 condemned properties

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Blight is an issue visible in many parts of Central Pennsylvania. Senators and state officials met in Harrisburg to discuss ways to end blight before it takes shape.

One man says blight has destroyed his old family home.

"Remove it from the face of the earth. Bulldoze it," said Khaldun Rasheed.  Rasheed says he used to live at this blighted property on the 100 block of Logan Street.

It was once his safe haven. Now -- a primary example of blight after he says the building burned and was never fixed.

"These things aren't going to change until they absolutely, finally put their foot down, and the neighborhood has to be a part of that," Rasheed added.

Officials from all across the state met in Harrisburg for a roundtable. They discussed ways to fix blighted properties like this and learned ways to stop blight from happening in the first place from Robert Klein, Founder and Chairman of Blight Solutions. He says he has helped improve run down communities in Ohio and has a suggestion for lawmakers in Pennsylvania.

"Don't use plywood boards. You're creating your own community blight the minute you put out those plywood boards," said Klein. Klein says states need to be proactive rather than reactive when looking at blight, an approach Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse says he is ready to try.

"Let's stop boarding up windows. Let's instead use poly-carbonate or use some sort of transparent material that you can't break but does not give the signal to criminals or others that this is an abandoned property or blight property," said Papenfuse.

"Don't wait until it becomes a zombie property. Don't wait until it becomes a blight of the community," added Klein.

According to Klein, "zombie properties" like this, with plywood boarding, are behind 25 percent of all fires nationwide, and Papenfuse says blight is the number one issue on his constituents' minds, adding there are currently 447 condemned properties in the city.

"We made a proposal today the city did that would require people purchasing a blighted or condemned property at tax sale to post a bond, and then we would have that bond and make that bond available if nothing happens to improve that property," said Papenfuse.

Rasheed says the city should tear down his old home and build the property back up.

"If people see some kind of progress, it's a glimmer of hope," said Rasheed.