Merski bill would help municipalities fight blight

Would establish grant program to fund code enforcement

HARRISBURG, Sept. 9 – A bill recently introduced by state Rep. Bob Merski would make it easier for municipalities to battle blight by creating a grant program to fund code enforcement efforts.

Merski, D-Erie, said that under H.B. 1827, municipalities would be able to apply for grants to help them launch new property maintenance code enforcement programs, hire inspectors for those programs or add more staff to fortify existing programs.

“We need to make it easier for municipalities to break the vicious cycle that occurs when vacant, blighted properties reduce tax revenues available for public services like code enforcement, leading to further vacancies, declining property values and more people leaving the area,” Merski said. “Even before the pandemic, municipalities were struggling to keep code enforcement programs funded. COVID-19 only aggravated those problems by stretching budgets to the max.

“The grant program created by my bill would give critical code enforcement efforts a shot in the arm by providing local governments the resources needed to respond to complaints, proactively root out trouble spots and carry out enforcement efforts.”

Merski said the competitive grant program would be administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and municipalities would be required to provide matching funds.

The bill has been referred to the House Urban Affairs Committee.