Freeman bill addressing blight, homelessness approved by committee

HARRISBURG, April 14 – Legislation that would help communities turn blighted properties into affordable housing options was approved Tuesday by the House Urban Affairs Committee, according to the bill’s author state Rep. Robert Freeman.

“A study conducted by the Joint State Government Commission concluded that one of the primary causes of homelessness in Pennsylvania is a lack of affordable housing,” said Freeman, D-Northampton. “Simultaneously, here in the Lehigh Valley, and communities across the commonwealth, blight has turned troubled properties into liabilities. My legislation would provide a substantive solution tailored to the unique needs we’re facing in Pennsylvania.”

According to Freeman, his legislation (H.B. 960), which was amended into H.B. 2209 at the committee meeting, would provide a directive to municipal land banks to convert a portion of the blighted properties they acquire into housing for the homeless.

Specifically, it would expand the powers of land banks to enter into partnerships with organizations in the private sector to create local solutions to address the lack of housing for the homeless population within their community and exempt all land bank transactions from both state and local realty transfer taxes.

“My legislation would address a real need in our communities and is an important consideration in dealing with affordable housing issues,” Freeman said. "I am optimistic that the resulting bill approved by the committee this week will continue to move along in the process toward becoming law."

An estimated 15,000 Pennsylvanians experience homelessness (either being on the streets, doubled up with family or friends, or in shelters) on any given day.

The proposal now moves to the full House for consideration.